November 25, 2011
Reviewed by Marc Glassman
Ken Scott, director and co-script w/Martin Petit
Starring: Patrick Huard (David Wozniak/Starbuck), Julie LeBreton (Valerie), Antoine Bertrand (David’s lawyer and best friend), Igor Ovadis (David’s father)
This quirky and often very funny Quebecois film is going to make Canadian top ten lists. Rumours are rife that producers will purchase the rights to Starbuck so that an English language remake can be made.
Released in English-Canadian cinemas too quickly after TIFF, it’s already out on DVD this week. Critics and audiences have been responding to the film’s unique concept and Patrick Huard’s exceptional performance, in particular.
Family drama; comedy-romance with a major twist; courtroom procedural; gangster thriller
David Wozniak (Huard), an easy-going deliveryman for his family’s butcher shop is shocked to discover that he’s the father of 533 children. Two decades earlier, he had made money (many times) by contributing sperm to his neighbourhood fertility clinic under the name of Starbuck (a legendary fecund Holstein). Turns out the name was appropriate.
Now, this perpetual adolescent finds himself in crisis: his girlfriend Valerie is pregnant; gangsters are threatening him because he owes tens of thousands of dollars; and more than 100 of his artificially inseminated kids are suing to find out the real identity of Starbuck.
Intrigued by the idea of parenthood, David slowly becomes involved with several of “Starbuck’s” children. He conceives of the idea of being their “guardian angel,” not their father, leading to absurd but touching scenes with David helping to cure a junkie daughter, befriending one of his street musician boys and taking care of a severely disabled son. He even goes on a weekend retreat with many of the kids, posing as the adopted father of his disabled lad.
On the other hand, David doesn’t want his identity revealed to his kids. Starbuck is being attacked in the press as a “mad masturbator” and Valerie doesn’t approve of him. With his best pal, a comically neurotic and apparently incompetent lawyer, defending him and even launching a counter-suit against the clinic, David appears to be poised for disaster.
Starbuck’s conclusion is too delicious to give away. Suffice to say it features the largest group hug in film history.
Huard is a wonderful comic talent, beloved in his native Quebec. In Anglo Canada, he’s best known as the “bad cop” to Colm Feore’s “bon cop” in the bilingual comedy thriller Bon Cop Bad Cop. He’s terrific as Wozniak, a slacker who finally has to grow up. The rest of the cast acquit themselves well but this is Huard’s movie and he makes the most of it.
Ken Scott is a talented writer, who is already remarkably self-assured in this, his second directorial effort. The film is well cast, nicely paced and shows off Montreal in new and unexpected ways.
This is a fine movie, with a concept that could be very popular in Hollywood. If you didn’t see Starbuck on film—or even if you did—this is a good time to catch it on DVD.