Movie Review: Starbuck–“there was an old man who lived in a shoe”

The rest of that line is “he had so many children he didn’t know what to do.”Starbuck

Even Mother Goose could not have imagined the number of children that David Wozniak (Paul Huard) fathered.  As a young man, Wozniak had visited a sperm bank close to 700 times in a 23-month period.  At $25/35 dollars a visit, it was a nice source of income (and an implied source of great generosity later in the film).  Unknown, to David, however, was that his sperm was very strong and very effective.  From his nearly 700 donations, 533 children were born.  And 142 of them have found each other, have united and are filing a class-action suit to discover who is the man behind the Agency’s alias known as STARBUCK.

Ironically, the day that David learns he has 533 children–most now in their late adolescence, early twenties– his girlfriend tells him she is pregnant. She also tells him that she wants nothing to do with him and does not want him to have a role in the life of their child.  It is the film’s narrative that has Wozniak gain paternal responsibility through identifying and relating with the numerous children he already has.

Huard’s performance is endearing. In a lumbering way, he reminds one of a young Gerard Depardieu. He is a bit of a sad sack, a bit of a screw-up, a 40-something slacker, and the least effective of his father’s sons who all work together in a butcher shop.  He is being hounded by loan sharks, discarded by his girlfriend, and advised by his cherub-faced croney who has let his legal license expire.

And then he finds out he is a father…and then some.  The delight of the film is when Starbuck annonymously tracks down various of his children. There is a nationalsoccer star and a busker in the metro, a promiscuous gay man and unstable heroin addict, a son with severe disabilities and a daughter who makes heads turn when she walks down the street.  Wozniak embraces them all and becomes part of their world–even to the point of allowing one “goth” son to live with him.  Yet none of them know who he really is.

And as charming as Huard is, his lawyer friend, Antoine Bertrand, is a delight. Himself harried by his own large family–one loses count of how many school lunches he must make in the morning–haunted by his mother’s lack of faith in him, and nervous about taking on a case that is gaining in notoriety, Bertrand is both gentle and loveable.  And like his friend, he too is a bit of a sad-sack, nearly ruining things completely as victory surrounds closes in.

Written by Ken Scott and Martin Petit and directed by Scott, Starbuck is a light film with a very good feeling.  Towards the end, there is even a “group hug,” which, as cheesy as it may sound, works wonderfully in capturing the joyful spirit of the entire movie.

group hug
Montreal looks wonderful, and, as a plus, the soundtrack is infectious with original music by a French-Canadian singer named David Giguere. My next quest is to find more of his music.

 The film was made in 2011 but is just now being shown in the U.S.  A “remake” has already been spawned, entiltled Delivery Man, starring Vince Vaughn and scheduled for release in October 2013.  Like so often happens, I can’t imagine the remake capturing the same charm as Starbuck.   So here’s the trailer of the original.  Enjoy it:


3 thoughts on “Movie Review: Starbuck–“there was an old man who lived in a shoe”

  1. Artificial insemination has intrigued me ever since I learned as a teenager in the 50s that my physician father employed the technique to assist his patient couples conceive. Seeing how this “light film with a very good feeling” deals with the serious ethical questions inherent in the subject—donor and offspring anonymity, for example—will be fascinating.

    • There are legal, ethical, and cultural issues that “Starbuck” is forced to deal with. As you imply, these are weighty issues that are present in the film, but are not the focus of what is primarily an entertainment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s