I was struggling to come up with a proper antyonym for misanthropic to describe this movie and basically coming up empty. It should be philanthropic, I guess, but that usually implies good words or deeds, as opposed to just a charitable spirit or attitude. I sometimes use the word malignant to describe movies, as well, and can’t really say benign here, since that’s more a neutral term.
Basically, Starbuck is a funny film that ultimately finds something good in everyone. You know that moment I have when I’m talking about French films where I describe something here and then say, “I know, French, right?” I did not have that here, because this isn’t a French film, it’s a French-Canadian film, remarkably free of angst and ennui. It’s even kind of morally conservative.
I know, weird, right?
Here’s the premise: Lovable loser David Wozniak (Patrick Huard) is a guy with a big heart who’s bad with money. Bad enough to owe some Bad Guys $80,000, and loser enough to think his way out of it is to grow lots of marijuana in his apartment. He works in his family’s abattoir but hasn’t ever gone beyond doing meat deliveries, which he does poorly.
Then, as it turns out, his girlfriend (gorgeous Julie LeBreton)—and he’s a bad boyfriend, too, apparently—is pregnant. But that’s not what this movie is about.
The movie starts in earnest when, as David starts to turn his life around to make himself worthy of fatherhood, he discovers that his sperm donations in college resulted in offspring. And those offspring want to know who he is.
Oh, and due to some glitch at the clinic, it turns out he has 533 children, and 142 of those have filed a lawsuit to find out their father’s true identity.
In a fit of newfound responsibility, David decides to find these kids incognito to see if he can’t make a little difference in their lives. (Public disapproval—"Starbuck" comes to be known popularly as El Masturbator—prevents him from coming forward. Also people seem to blame “Starbuck” for what happened, even though clearly it’s the clinic’s fault.)
Because this is a movie, a short period of stalking his children allows him to be there at critical moments in their lives, and to face some of the difficult choices of being a father. And he quickly becomes torn between the consequences of revealing who he is (the stakes of which are constantly upped) and a compelling passion to do the right thing.
This could have gone so wrong.
It could have gone zany, but stays close to its characters and treats the events of their lives seriously. It could have been glib, presenting him with no real difficulty or presenting him with insurmountable problems—but one of his kids is just plain irritating. It could’ve gone dark.
It just dances in and out of these areas, giving the characters a chance to be likable or relatable or someone, minimally, you’re can pull for. Even David’s kind of icky lawyer (Antoine Bertrand) whose kids ignore him and is apparently kind of a failure in life—you end up rooting for him as he struggles to help his friend out of his mess (and maybe do something a little bigger than he’s used to).
I can’t remember the last time I saw a film so kind. That’s worth a lot. It’s also funny. Which is worth a lot, too. And kind of an usual combination: A kind comedy.
I don’t think I’d call it a great movie, but it’s something I could watch again. Probably multiple times.
It’s so Canadian! Heh.
It’s also something I can recommend to anyone not completely jaded or cynical.
The Boy also enjoyed greatly.