Audience favorite, Silver Linings Playbook, triumphed at the Film Independent Spirit Awards, garnering the best feature award over rival Oscar nominee and Sundance hit Beasts of the Southern Wild. Producer Bruce Cohen cited the dedication of the crew in making it possible to film a 150-page script in 33 days.
The win marked a celebratory return to the Spirit Awards for writer-director David O. Russell, who 19 years ago won the best first feature for his debut, Spanking the Monkey. Additional awards for best director, best screenplay and lead actress (Jennifer Lawrence), made the Weinstein Company production the big winner of the event held Saturday afternoon on the beach in Santa Monica. Playbook was the company’s second consecutive top honor, having taken home the trophy last year for The Artist.
Other contenders for the top prize included Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, Richard Linklater’s Bernie and Ira Sachs’ Keep the Lights On.
The only major award that Silver Linings Playbook failed to secure was best actor. Bradley Cooper ceded the trophy to John Hawkes, recognized for his portrayal of paraplegic Mark O’Brien in The Sessions. Hawkes used a cushion under one side of his back to achieve the look of an arched and distorted spine, enduring the physical discomfort to better embody the character. Co-star Helen Hunt took home the best supporting female award for her role as a sex therapist in The Sessions.
Ben Zeitlin‘s Beasts did not go home empty handed, winning the best cinematography award for Ben Richardson who had previously garnered the cinematography award for the film at Sundance 2012. In speaking of the main focus of his shooting, Richardson said, “The day I met Quvenzhane was incredibly eye opening. I could just see what she was able to do. My focus was to make sure that translated to audiences.”
The only other award to specifically recognize below-the-line crew was The Robert Altman Award, presented to a film’s director, casting director and ensemble cast. Starlet garnered the award for director Sean Baker, casting director Julia Kim and the ensemble cast of Dree Hemingway, Besedka Johnson, Karren Karagulian, Stella Maeve and James Ransone.
Kirby Dick’s and Amy Ziering’s The Invisible War was named best documentary. In taking about the challenges making the film, Dick acknowledged the role of editing. “We were actually making this film for two audiences. Film audiences, and I think it’s done really well, winning many audience awards… but we were also making it for a few hundred people in Washington, D.C. – policymakers who could actually work to change this. We were continually juggling to find a cut that worked in both directions.”
Matthew McConaughey won the supporting male award for playing the strip-club owner in Magic Mike. He credited costume designer Christopher Peterson with helping shape his character during a short pre-production schedule, explaining, “We were talking about who’s this guy, how is he different from the people we may have seen and researched. I brought up Jim Morrissey. He was like… leathers.”
Michael Haneke‘s Amour, favored for the Oscars’ foreign-language award, was named best international film. Speaking though an interpreter, 70-year-old Haneke commented, “I think I’m the oldest man in the room.”
Director Stephen Chbosky won best first feature for The Perks of Being a Wallflower. In accepting his award he thanked “the crew that never gets a shout-out.”
Best first screenplay award went to Safety Not Guaranteed scribe, Derek Connolly, who gave a rambling acceptance speech, finally leaving the podium after actor Bryan Cranston came onstage and poured him a shot of whiskey.
Producer Mynette Louie received the Piaget Producers Award for Stones in the Sun. The Someone to Watch Award went to Adam Leon for Gimme the Loot. The Stella Artois Truer Than Fiction Award went to Peter Nicks for The Waiting Room. Laura Colella got the Jameson Find Your Audience Award for Breakfast With Curtis. The four sponsored awards came with cash grants.
The show was hosted by Andy Samberg, who joked that the Spirit Awards was, “the only awards ceremony watched by more people at the actual show than on television.”