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Jennifer Lawrence Performer of the Year at Santa Barbara International Film Fest


It was quite the event last night at the Arlington theater up State Street in Santa Barbara to fete Best Actress frontrunner, and Silver Linings Playbook star, Jennifer Lawrence.  The street was lined with young fans of Lawrence, pink cheeked young girls their pupils the shape of hearts, pictures of Lawrence held carefully in their hands as they waited to get a look at the real live Katniss.  My third year at the SBIFF I’ve never seen anything like this, it was a mob scene of tweens and teens girls madly, passionately in love with Ms. Lawrence. But they weren’t the only people there to get a look at her – plenty of men, young and old, plenty of women, young and old, and the heavy weights from the Weinstein Co. like producer Bruce Cohen, and director David O. Russell.

The Santa Barbara film fest is a success, I think, because of its director Roger Durling’s passion for film. He knows everything about film history and has a great appreciation for it in all ways. I’ll never forget being up at Telluride and seeing Roger waiting in line to see movies, not calling in his VIP card.   Durling clearly loved Silver Linings Playbook and one of the reasons for that was Lawrence.

I found my way into the theater and took one of the reserved seats for press up front. Jennifer Lawrence was outside smiling for photographers and fans. I wish I’d been able to see the screaming faces and tears but alas, I was already inside by then. Eventually, the Arlington filled with patrons until it was packed, even the balcony. The only thing missing was the 22 year-old Ms. Lawrence who eventually came walking in. In a crepe pantsuit and high heels, she strutted on in – charismatic, down to earth and, as director David O. Russell said about her she stops your heart when you first see her.

Lawrence took her place among us up front.  I’d met a fellow blogger, Linda, from (on twitter as @frowninghour) who was a Lawrence, and Silver Linings diehard fan.  She’d scolded me a few times when I was trashmouthing the film at various stages.  She was sitting almost next to Lawrence.  Durling intro’d Lawrence by talking about her performance in the film, but also her versatility as such a young age.  When her tribute reel began it opened with clips from famous scenes of other Oscar winning or nominated comic actresses like Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night, Carole Lombard in My Man Godfrey, Diane Keaton in Annie Hall and Cher in Moonstruck.  All of these actresses, it’s worth noting, were a good deal older than Lawrence when they won, the youngest of them being Lombard who was 28.

Though Lawrence does more serious work, she is really naturally funny and should do more comedy.  After the clip, Lawrence took the stage and was giggling, she said, because her best friend was there and was giggling at the early clips of Lawrence as a teen.  Because she’s been thrust into the spotlight and is winning awards so soon in her career it’s easy to forget how very young she really is but when you see her in person and particularly hear her interviewed you see how young, how impressionable she is.

Durling praised Lawrence quite a few times and each time Lawrence would say “thank you” softly.  He asked her if she’d done any theater. “No.  I’m sorry. I wish I could say I did but I didn’t.” When he asked her about any acting training she said “if we could have afforded lessons I would have gotten some.” And when he asked her about how she prepares for a role she says “I just show up without having read my lines.” She’s dead serious about all of it because it’s true. But it’s also kind of a cheat. She sort of makes it look like she’s just that good without really trying – but her work proves otherwise.  There’s no way, for instance, she didn’t prepare her lines for Winter’s Bone. I refuse to believe that’s true. It’s possible with Tiffany that’s how she worked but either way, it seemed like she was being too modest.

While watching her, as poised as she was, being herself completely without putting on airs, I was thinking – someday on some talk show she’s going to recall this time in her life and she’ll say “I had no idea what I was doing, no idea what I was saying.” It’s a lot for a girl of 22 to take in.  It is, I fear, a bit too much. I hope it isn’t.  She says she stays in her house a lot and that’s how she stays grounded.

I’m not sure Lawrence really understands what happens with her when the camera’s on.  I keep thinking, if she’s this good when she no idea how she got there, imagine how good she’ll be when she learns to really harness all of that talent.

After many clips and a very long long interview with the young actress it was time to go.  Director David O. Russell took to the stage to intro Lawrence and hand her yet another award as she thunders towards the Oscars.  Silver Linings is a film for people with mood disorders, as the Oscar narrative shifts away from the idea of it being a romantic comedy, which of course it is.  But people who suffer from bi-polar find they can relate to Silver Linings and if it offers them some relief, where’s the harm.

He said the editor of their film took one look at the dailies and said about Lawrence that she’d been “kissed by angels.”   The crowd erupted in loving applause as Lawrence took a bow. Eventually the lights came back up and it was time for everyone to go home.  Back in Los Angeles the DGA was announcing, predictably, that Ben Affleck just won the DGA.  Awards season always feels fun until at some point it doesn’t anymore.  The futility begins to take over and you wonder what it all means, if it means anything at all, and what the hell are you doing paying so much attention to any of it.

But outside on the sidewalk there were 13 year old girls wearing tiaras in honor of Lawrence. “That was SO worth it,” one of them said. “Oh my god, oh my god,” another one said.  Jennifer Lawrence might have been just doing her job last night, but in a smaller way she was making the dreams of young girls come true. No, not everyone can go to New York and get spotted instantly to become a star. I’m sure many girls go to sleep at night dreaming of just that very thing happening. But as we all know it is only partly a matter of talent, so much is a matter of genetics. But right now, at 13, these girls don’t have to know that – all that they care about is seeing a face kissed by angels.