“Starbuck” is a big, fat French-Canadian hug of a movie, a sperm-donations-gone-wrong farce that manages the occasional belly laugh, but also moving takes on parenthood, family and what it means to grow up.
David Wozniak (Patrick Huard) makes one wonder what the French word for “galoot” is. He’s the black sheep in his Montreal family, 30something slacker who can’t do “the easiest job” in the family’s butcher shop right – driving the delivery truck. He’s forever taking the truck for personal errands, forgetting to do this or that and then lying the moment he’s found out.
He’s in hock to loan sharks. His idea for making extra cash is setting up a pot-growing operation in his apartment. And when his girlfriend (Julie LeBreton) tells him that she’s pregnant, that’s her brush-off line. She doesn’t want their baby’s father to be a lout “who doesn’t have a life.”
David promises to mend his ways. But that promise is made before he’s served with legal papers. There was a screwup at the sperm bank he used to frequent for the extra cash. Somehow, 533 babies were born with his genes, and now, 20 odd years later, they’re suing to find out who their “father” is.
He consults his best friend, a harried father and sometime lawyer, played to hilarious effect by Antoine Bertrand, who wants to take on this landmark privacy case.
“I’ll call the bar this afternoon and get my license back!”
David doesn’t tell his girlfriend or his family. And when he’s given the profiles of the people suing to find his identity, he doesn’t tell his offspring, either. But he starts checking them out. One’s a rising soccer star. Great! But the rest?
There’s a junky, a bartender who wants to be an actor, a lifeguard, a bag boy at a supermarket, an impoverished busker playing in subway stations. David reads their profiles, tracks them down, and stumbles into their world under false pretenses. He’s the pizza deliveryman who drags Julie to the hospital after an overdose, the bar customer who offers to step behind the counter so that Etienne can go for an audition.
David thinks he can become “their guardian angel,” and nobly wants “the satisfaction of making a difference in someone’s life.” The genius of this actor turned director Ken Scott’s film is the ways David manages just that, mixed in with David’s manic efforts to hide his identity.
“Yo no soy David,” he bellows – denying who he is, in Spanish, to throw off those tracking him down.
It’s a movie conscious of statistical realities – somebody in this group is going to have birth defects, some will be unhappy, some gay, some talented and some, just like David – struggling to handle life’s simplest demands. Scott scans past the progeny with lovely montages of tattoos and the like. He manages a few perfect poignant moments in between the chuckles.
And the sentiment, that kids “conceived in a little cup” want what those “conceived in love” are born with, is just lovely.
It’s a smidge too cute and a bit too long, but Huard and Scott make this comical journey (in French and “Franglish” with English subtitles), a trip from indifference to kindness, incompetence to responsibility, a most rewarding reinvention of what “family” can mean.
(Roger Moore interviews Patrick Huard and Ken Scott about “Starbuck” here.)
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, language and some drug material
Cast: Patrick Huard, Julie LeBreton, Antoine Bertrand, Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse
Credits: Directed by Ken Scott, written by Ken Scott and Martin Petit. An eOne release.
Running time: 1:49