Film Review – Starbuck

Starbuck (M)

Directed by: Ken Scott

Starring: Patrick Huard, Julie LeBreton

Four and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

This year was all about trying to explore alternatives to the nuclear family. Challenging the traditional way of having a family (two people meet, fall in love, get married and raise children in a nice home behind picket fences, which Hollywood still thinks is the be all and end all way), Not Suitable for Children and Friends With Kids showed us that children can be brought into a loving family with a little help from the medical profession or without the customary mum-and-dad-happily-married set up.

While not the best examples to hold up – they both ended up on my worst films of 2012 list with their obnoxious characters and flippant decision-makingĀ  – they do shine a light on modern family values and child rearing. Times, they are changing. But Starbucks, about a man who fathers 533 children through sperm donation, gets it right, showing us that there is no “normal” when it comes to family. But also that alternate ways of parenting can be just as acceptable.

Constant screw up 40-something David Wozniak (Patrick Huard) does anything he can for a quick buck, which included in his early 20s, donating sperm on a regular basis. This routine comes to bite him in the backside several years later at the worst possible time. His police officer girlfriend announces she is pregnant, some dodgy dealings has left him in a huge amount of debt with some local heavies and he has a pile of unpaid parking tickets. On top of all this, 142 of the 533 children he fathered from his sperm donating phase have banded together with a lawsuit to force the fertility clinic to reveal his true identity. They only know him as his alias Starbuck. And the story is spread by the media.

Starbuck1

To David, he was just providing his seed for a quick buck, without considering consequences or responsibilities. But with pangs of guilt, he accepts the profiles of each child involved in the lawsuit from his best friend and lawyer and begins to track them down. In some of the most moving and revealing moments, David anonymously helps each one in a conflict they are experiencing, from a struggling actor to a drug addict trying to get her life on track. If these scenes don’t have you reaching for the tissues, then the final 20 minutes will.

The key to this film’s success is the flawed but likeable lead (which is a tricky balance to strike), something that Not Suitable For Children or Friends With Kids did not have. Those two films had immature, selfish lead characters, who never showed any interest in wanting children, one day turn to their best friend and saying “Hey, let’s have a kid” like they were possessions. Starbuck is about a man who is a deadbeat but not cold-hearted or uncaring, who learns about morality and responsibility. This is the kind of drop kick you want raising an unconventional family. Patrick Huard is a pure delight, offering comedy with pathos and unafraid to look weathered with his greying scruffy hair. He lights up the screen with his presence.

The film stumbles ever so slightly when the dialogue unsubtly discusses David’s role as guardian angel for these children who he has missed out on seeing grow up (anyone paying attention would have picked up on the gorgeous sentiment). Thoughtful, thought-provoking, funny, moving and a pure joy to watch, Starbucks is the film that makes you want to rush home to hug your family, whatever kind of family it is.

Starbuck is screening as part of the Perth International Arts Festival from December 31 – January 13.

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