In the French-Canadian comedy Starbuck, a man-child is forced to grow up due to unexpected news. Familiar concept? We’ve seen the man-child shtick before in countless of films but Starbuck stands out with it’s out of the ordinary plot about a man who just wanted to make some cash in his twenties and twenty years later, finds out that his generous donations spawned hundreds of offspring. Released last year in Quebec, the comedy is now finally making its way to the film festivals in the United States and was the opening night film for the 2012 Milwaukee Film Festival.
In his early twenties, David Wozniak (Patrick Huard) donated sperm not just once or twice, but rather 693 times under the alias Starbuck. You can say that he found pleasure in making quick cash. David is now a middle-aged adolescent who just can’t seem to get his life in order. He works as a meat delivery driver for his family’s butcher shop. Broke and aimless, he finds himself in a difficult situation with dangerous people who he owes money to. Not making nearly enough to pay off his debt, he tries to apply for personal loans with no success. If being broke is not enough, he is about to lose his girlfriend Valerie (Julie LeBreton) who tells him that she is pregnant but doesn’t want him anywhere near the child because she doesn’t think he’s responsible enough to be a father. At this point, you may think that his life can’t get any worse but he soon quickly discovers news that’s going to radically change his life. He discovers that, because of his donations, he has 533 biological children and 142 of them are desperately seeking the identity of his alias by filing a class action lawsuit against him. When he receives profiles of his biological children from Paul, his pal/lawyer (Antoine Bertrand), he heads out to search for each and every one of them.
In the same vein as a Judd Apatow film, Starbuck is successful in its way to be laugh-out-loud funny and yet sincere with full of heart. The balance of the comedy and the more dramatic moments works very well thanks to director and co-writer Ken Scott. As you may already know, comedy is all about timing. I feel as if the film hits all the right marks. Patrick Huard gave a surprising performance as David. The character is essentially a loser, but likeable loser. It’s easy to be invested in his character as we follow him on his pursuit to stalk his biological children. At first it may seem that there is no hope for this character but finding out that he has 142 biological children wanting to know who their father is, however chaotic may seem, is the best thing to ever happen to him. As a viewer, we know that he wants to change but as in life, things don’t go according to plan. Antoine Bertrand, who plays Paul, has some of the best lines and is extremely funny.
The highlights of the film were the scenes when David is encountering his biological children. He finds that they all lead many different lives such as being a soccer player, an aspiring actor, meth addict, a street musician, a tour guide, and a lifeguard. His interactions with these characters are sometimes hilarious with an intriguing dynamic. Although they don’t know that he is their biological father, David has a very fatherly towards them and supports them in any way that he can. During a scene between him and Paul, David explains that he wants to be their “guardian angel” rather than their father. He doesn’t know any of these people besides the fact that they are his children but when he sees most of them for the first time, he can’t help but be emotionally connected to them.
Starbuck is by far one of the most entertaining comedies of the year. In fact, I would go as far to say that it is better than most of the mainstream comedies released this year so far. Although it becomes almost too predictable near the end of the film, it’s easy to look past the predictability. The hilarious and out of the ordinary concept mixed with sincerity makes it a film that you shouldn’t miss.
Starbuck – 9/10