In case you were worried that Jennifer Lawrence is going a little under the radar this season, don’t worry: the Santa Barbara International Film Festival is taking care of the situation. Festival director Roger Durling announced yesterday that the 22 year-old actress will receive their Outstanding Performer of the Year honor of February 2, in recognition of her 2012 work in both “Silver Linings Playbook” and “The Hunger Games.” (“The House at the End of the Street” went unmentioned, though I assume that’s an oversight.)
It’s an award that has a reliable habit of going to Oscar frontrunners. Previous recipients Colin Firth, Penelope Cruz, Helen Mirren and Charlize Theron all received the honor en route to their eventual Oscar wins, while Kate Winslet, Heath Ledger, James Franco and last year’s recipient Viola Davis were honored in years they were nominated by the Academy. (The only time the SBIFF selectors behind this award haven’t seen eye-to-eye with the Academy was with Angelina Jolie in 2007, who missed the Oscar cut for “A Mighty Heart.”)
Of course, this should be regarded as an award in itself, not merely grist for the Oscar mill. And while it hardly hurts that Lawrence is widely presumed to be in the driver’s seat for Best Actress — Jessica Chastain is now giving her some heat, though some wonder if her “Zero Dark Thirty” character is too remote for the win — she makes as much sense as anyone for a Performer of the Year citation, given the artistic range and industry impact she has shown between her two major films this year.
Plus, when you factor in the commercial connotations of the term “performer,” it feels right: “Silver Linings Playbook” may be the performance that’ll net her more honors, but it was her sturdy anchoring of the “Hunger Games” franchise-starter that announced her as a box-office player to be reckoned with. Whether or not she wins the Oscar (we know the Globe is hers, at least), she’s arguably the face of 2012 — and that’s with an Oscar nomination and established indie credibility already under her belt. The world is hers, and I’m happy with that.
Durling agrees: “Ms. Lawrence impressed us earlier this year in The Hunger Games, but has now left us moonstruck with her career-defining performance in Silver Lining Playbook – recalling classic turns by Lombard, Stanwyck and Colbert. Naming her our Outstanding Performer of the Year is an understatement.” Some of you will doubtless call that hyperbolic praise, but I already invoked Stanwyck’s name in my own assessment of her “Playbook” performance, so I’m no position to talk.