Patrick Huard in "Starbuck"

The appealing French-Canadian comedy Starbuck stars Patrick Huard (Bon Cop Bad Cop) as David Wozniak, an irresponsible shaggy dog of a man a decade past the age where that kind of shtick is still lovable. In younger days it seems, David repeatedly helped himself over a series of minor financial hurdles as a regular sperm donor at a nearby fertility clinic under the alias “Starbuck.” Like the famously prolific bull stud that name comes from, it turns out David’s particular sperm were much more motivated than he was himself and the clinic used them time and time again to great success. 20 years or so later, David finds out just how successful when the clinic is named in a class action lawsuit brought by 142 of the 533 children he wound up spawning and who want to know his identity. It’s a potential nightmare for David and he does everything he can to remain anonymous, but maybe this realization will lead the way toward him finally growing up.

At best, Starbuck‘s setup is slight, and at worst it’s actually kind of unbelievable. Sure, it’s feasible one donor could father over 500 children (it’s actually happened apparently), but I don’t buy this as a source for dramatic conflict. Why would a group of those offspring demand to know their donor? Unlike an adopted child, what possible emotional connection could they have to a complete stranger who didn’t know they existed? What’s more, beyond basic notions of privacy, why would David resist being found out? He did nothing wrong and his legal and emotional obligation to his progeny is zero.

So what’s all the fuss? Starbuck never really makes the case for it. It just assumes that the drama is there and runs with it. The thing is, it eventually starts to work. After a while, Huard’s scruffy-but-handsome soulfulness and the film’s gently human, pleasingly laid back comic groove take over. Director Ken Scott and his co-writer Martin Petit keep things spry and light and entertaining while knowing just when to serve up a little emotion and, more importantly, when to back off again and let the comedy come back to the fore.

Ultimately, the underlying notions of what really makes a family give the film its beating heart. Starbuck is about the need for human connection in a messy, lonely universe and it’s about the need to matter for something to someone. As it builds to an emotionally satisfying conclusion, it delivers enough mellow, likable humor to smooth over nitpicky narrative concerns if you let it. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it feels right.

3 Responses to “Starbuck (2013)”

  1. “Starbuck is about the need for human connection in a messy, lonely universe and it’s about the need to matter for something to someone.”

    Fair enough, especially when one considers the slim pickings we have for the first quarter of every year. Nice to know that after an unconvincing start that this particular Canadian film reaches a valid coda. I plan on seeing it soon, circumstances permitting. As always, an expertly crafted piece.

  2. The premise does sound ridiculous and it’s a testament to the acting and direction of the film that you ended up caring about the characters and the truths that it portrays about human beings and their need for connections (and to matter). And it’s got humor to boot. Nice write-up. This is one that I probably won’t rush out to see but I would check it out once it gets to Netflix.

  3. Yeah… likable. What else can you say?

    You could also wait for the US remake starring Vince Vaughn which I’m told is already in the works. No, seriously.

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