Starbuck (review)

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Starbuck red light Patrick Huard

I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): the trailer did not give me hope

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

When are “lovable” movie losers even more (allegedly) lovable? When they’re all foreign and arthousey, of course!

French-Canadian Québécois 40something manchild David (Patrick Huard) is constantly letting down friends and family with his unreliability, and now he might have lots of new people to disappoint: the 142 offspring he fathered via sperm donation years earlier. There’s many more of them, actually — 533 — but only 142 are party to a class-action lawsuit to get a Montreal fertility clinic to reveal the identity of the donor they have in common, known to them only as “Starbuck.” The legalities of such a situation are brushed aside in a way that is actively offensive from a narrative perspective: overpowering feel-good music is the only soundtrack for the couple of courtroom scenes, so we have no idea of the relative merits of either side of the case, for or against David retaining his anonymity; and the legal, moral, and ethical culpabilities on the part of the clinic aren’t even mentioned at all.

Alas, there’s little hint, in the script by director Ken Scott and Martin Petit, of any other basis upon which to float such a tale: you know, emotional motives, stuff like that. Why do these 142 people feel entitled to Starbuck’s identity? Where are the families they grew up in, and what do they think about this quest? David’s offspring are barely characters, and there’s so many of them simply jammed into supposedly hilarious crowd scenes — ha ha, David is the dad of all of them! — that they might as well be random people pulled in off the street to fill a scene. (For a smart, intriguing look at a similar, though less extreme, real-life situation, see the wonderful documentary Donor Unknown, which I would not at all be surprised to learn was the inspiration for this wholly, even absurdly fictional film.) And what’s David’s deal? Why does he want to remain anonymous… and why, at the same time, does he feel compelled to become “guardian angels” for these 142 plaintiffs? His “lovable” side pops up in ways that add to the illogic of the story on the most basic level: How is he, a complete stranger, able to befriend one severely mentally and physically handicapped young man, even take him out for the day from the residential home where lives, without metaphoric and perhaps even literal alarm bells going off? And how is this young man, who does not appear able to communicate, part of the class-action group? If he has close friends or family working on the lawsuit on his behalf, why don’t they notice the stranger hanging around?

All that’s left is a nebulous notion about “family” being “wonderful” with no evidence whatsoever to back up such a concept, especially with David’s incompetent lawyer friend (Antoine Bertrand, the French-Canadian Québécois Jonah Hill), with his hoard of terrible disobedient children, constantly bitching about how awful fatherhood is. Unless we’re meant to rejoice with David in how he can look around a meeting room or a weekend barbecue party where the 142 have gathered — and which he has crashed anonymously — and see how far and wide his seed was sown. Which is a little bit ewww, and a little bit creepy, especially when he gets all stalkerish doing his “guardian angel” thing. Oh, and we’re definitely meant to be charmed by how David’s long-suffering girlfriend, Valérie (Julie LeBreton, the French-Canadian Québécois Jennifer Aniston), forgives him for what we may assume is the 187,746th time when he decides to finally grow up and be a father to the baby she’s carrying. They’re so cute at that age. David, that is, acting all responsible and stuff at 43. Awww.

But never fear! As unpleasant an affirmation of the all-around awesomness of men no matter what they do, it’s sure to get worse once Hollywood does its thing. That’s right: an English-language remake is already in the works, starring Vince Vaughn, and it’s already worse. Its new title is The Delivery Man, and its due date is October 2013. Prepare for poopy diapers.

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Sat, Jul 27, 2013 1:12am

I think you are being too harsh. Sometimes a movie is just about entertainment, as this one is. Nothing art housey about this in any way. It didn’t entertain you, OK. but this is not a sexist movie. It’s a movie about self-discovery. It’s certainly better than every Adam Sandler movie I have ever seen!

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Italian_Movies
Sat, Jul 27, 2013 3:05pm

Where did I say this movie is sexist?