Jennifer Aniston’s ‘Cake’ performance earns SBIFF honor

Clearly drunk on Netflix”s mass uploading of all 10 “Friends” seasons, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival announced Friday evening that Jennifer Aniston would earn its Montecito Award. The fest”s prestigious accolade reconigzes a performer who has “given a series of classic and standout performances throughout his or her and whose style has made a major contribution to film.” Previous winners include Oprah Winfrey, Daniel Day-Lewis, Geoffrey Rush, Julianne Moore, Kate Winslet, Javier Bradem, Naomi Watts, and Annette Bening. SBIFF honors Aniston for her “inspirational performance” in “Cake.” 

“Once in a while a performer who we thought we knew gets outside of his or her comfort zone and shows us the unexpected,” said SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling in a statement. “When that happens it is cause for celebration – and this is why the 2015 Montecito Award is bestowed upon Ms. Aniston.”

Aniston”s career is worthy of praise, though whether or not “Cake” is the snowballing of her talent, deserving of season recognition, is up for debate. For every “We”re the Millers” and “Horrible Bosses,” Aniston has managed off-beat alternatives like “The Object of My Affection,” Nicole Holofcener”s “Friends with Money,” and 2002″s “The Good Girl,” which earned the actress an Independent Spirit Award nomination. Voicing the mother character in “The Iron Giant” gives her a free pass for life. The overlooked “Wanderlust” is icing on top.

Tabloid obsessions turned Aniston into an underrated comedic performer. She deserves this respect, and dressing down for “Cake” is thrusting the spotlight on that fact. That said, it feels forced – an aggressive campaign put Aniston among the SAG and Golden Globe Best Actress nominees. Replicating it come Oscar time may depend on reactions to “Cake,” which played mixed-to-negative out of TIFF earlier this year. 

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival runs Jan. 27 to Feb. 7, 2015. The Montecito Award will be presented at the historic Arlington Theatre on Friday, Jan. 30, 2015