On Saturday night, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival presented Jennifer Lawrence, 22, with the fest’s Outstanding Performer of the Year award. But first she had to submit to a grilling by SBIFF executive director Roger Durling, who described Lawrence’s performances, from Lori Petty’s “The Poker House” to Oscar-nominated “Silver Linings Playbook,” as “filled with electric energy and vitality.” In short, “calling Jennifer Lawrence a star is doing her a disservice,” he said. “She’s a supernova!”
Durling compared her performance as the high-strung, straight-talking Tiffany in David O. Russell’s movie to Carole Lombard in “My Man Godfrey,” Diane Keaton in “Annie Hall” and Claudette Colbert in “It Happened One Night,” stressing her screwball-comedy sensibility and timing. “In ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ Jennifer Lawrence delivers a fierce, intense, movie-star performance all at the same time,” he said. “At this point it seems like there’s nothing she can’t do.”
Russell presented Lawrence with the Outstanding Performer award at the end of the evening, telling her that “you have an amazing gift and you bring it to your work.” At the Montecito after party, Lawrence huddled with Russell, who also circulated to talk “Silver Linings Playbook” as well as his upcoming project, the untitled 70s period film on the “Abscam” FBI sting operation into official corruption that netted several Congress-members. Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Christian Bale are set to star for Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures.
As they got into a conversation that lasted more than an hour, both Durling and Lawrence, dressed in a navy-blue silk Stella McCartney pantsuit and black heels, seemed to relax a bit as the onscreen clips for “The Poker House,” “The Burning Plain,” “Winter’s Bone,” “The Beaver,” “Like Crazy,” “X-Men: First Class,” “The Hunger Games” and “Silver Linings Playbook,” reinforced the power of Lawrence’s performances.
The past year “has been amazing,” Lawrence acknowledged. “A lot of things I thought would never be possible for me have happened.” As Durling touched on her aspirations beyond acting, Lawrence became particularly animated. “I’ve always wanted to direct,” she said. “I try to soak up as much as I can” from the directors of her movies.
The actress began acting almost on a whim, after visiting New York from her hometown of Louisville and signing with an agency that got her commercial work and small acting roles. Although she’d had no formal acting experience or coaching, Lawrence discovered that “it was the first thing I was ever good at.”
Of Tiffany in “Silver Linings Playbook” Lawrence said: “I loved that she was so real. I loved her strengths as well as her weaknesses.” Accepting the offer to play opposite Oscar-winner Robert DeNiro and nominee Jacki Weaver, she said that “it’s really rare that saying yes to something will change your life” as much as Russell’s film has for her. “Most of my favorite performances from my favorite movies” are from the director’s films, she said.
Looking ahead to her upcoming projects, Lawrence singled out “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” the second installment in the franchise that has her reprising her role of Katniss Everdeen. “It’s a character I love and a story with a message that I’m passionate about,” she disclosed, although she contends that “I still think of myself as an indie actor.”
As for her two Academy Award nominations, “it’s overwhelming, but it’s an honor,” she said. “It’s like getting a promotion at your job. My dreams have come true.” This second time around, when she’s better positioned to win the Best Actress Oscar, Lawrence acknowledged the process was less daunting: “The first time it was terrifying, but I did it one time so I can do it again.”