Netflix Instant Files: Starbuck

starbuck poster

At 42, David Wozniak doesn’t have much going for him.  He’s in debt to shady characters that send thugs around his apartment to threaten him.  He might have a steady job at his family’s butcher shop, but he’s only the meat delivery guy.  His family doesn’t even trust him to get the jerseys for their soccer league.  Then he finds out that in his 20s, under the alias of Starbuck, he fathered 533 children.

starbuck discoveryStarbuck takes a hilarious premise and mines it to find the sweetness underneath.  David did indeed father that many children, through his massive donations to a sperm bank.  Now 142 of those children are suing the fertility clinic to discover the identity of their shared parent.  David is given an envelope containing dossiers on the children involved in the suit.

At first, David ignores the envelope.  He doesn’t want the responsibility of parenthood; he can’t even make a real commitment to his girlfriend.  Those involved in the suit might not want much from him – they just want to know who he is – but it’s more than David is prepared to give.

Until curiosity strikes, and David peers at one dossier, chosen at random.  One of his children is his favorite soccer team’s star player, and the ego boost that gives a 40-something loser is enough to motivate him to look at more of the profiles.

After finding and helping another one of his children, David feels he’s finally discovered his life’s calling.  He might not have it in him to be a real parent, but he can act as a guardian angel of sorts to the many children fate has given him.  He’ll flit in and out of their lives, aiding them from afar in safe anonymity.

starbuck good citizenDavid’s best friend (and father of three) Avocat is as incredulous to this plan as the rest of the audience.  Viewing Starbuck requires incredulity, though no more than the amount required for the hijinks common in your standard romcom.  Starbuck isn’t a romcom, but it plays on similar sentiments.

Surprisingly, the central premise of the film is one of the easiest things to accept.  The reaction of the film’s characters, and its society at large, to the news of David’s many children was strange.  People act like David is a deviant, pervert, or deadbeat.  It’s like no one understands the basic concept of donation: the whole point is that he’s not a father, he’s just provided a bit of DNA.  His sperm was only given out to so many women as a fluke, and yes, while it’s weird that David visited the clinic so many times, he’s revealed to have selfless reasons for doing so.

That’s Starbuck at its heart: offbeat, silly plot with a touching center.  David might be misguided in thinking that his role in life is to be a guardian angel for his children, but he does them a great service all the same.  Those involved in the lawsuit came together because they wanted to know more about their family.  Whether or not they discover their father, they’ve already found a family bigger than they ever could have imagined.

starbuck meetingAll of the children involved in the suit seem lost or lonely – and that’s another strange bit.  Surely a mother that would deliberately conceive via sperm donation wouldn’t just abandon that child later?  Could 100 of those mothers really have passed away in the past 20 years?  Why have all these kids been made to feel that they’re unwanted or abandoned?

Maybe the movie doesn’t have strong logic, or maybe these kids have tragic stories we just don’t hear.  It doesn’t really matter; what matters is that Starbuck shines in its idealism.  As David says to his children: it doesn’t matter who their father is.  It doesn’t matter if they ever get to meet him.  What matters is that they were looking for family, and they found it.

David Wozniak might be a loser, but through the course of the movie we realize he deserves such a large, caring family.  One of the reasons why he hasn’t done much for himself is that he doesn’t care much for himself.  He never tries to hit up any of his children for money.  He’ll do anything to help a friend or family member in need.  They don’t even have to be in need – he’ll make $20,000 worth of sperm donations just to afford a surprise present for his parents.

starbuck group hugStarbuck is a laugh-and-cry movie.  It wrings out every possible drop of humor from its premise, and then it punches you in the gut with sentiment.  Who cares about logic when you get to see hundreds of adrift people lonely no longer?  Going on family weekend picnics, coming together to accept and welcome new members, joining together in what might be the world’s largest group hug: these are all moments Starbuck works for all the warm fuzzies it can get.

Starbuck might not be for the cynical, or maybe it’s just what the cynical need.  Who knew a movie about sperm donation could avoid most of the baser jokes possible and be so touching?  I’ve wanted to see the film ever since I saw a trailer for it over a year ago, and not only was I not let down, I found an even better film than expected.

Note: Starbuck has been remade into an American film due out at the end of November starring Vince Vaughn.  From the looks of the trailer it’s a straightforward remake, with most scenes taken straight from the original.  Do yourself a favor, and check out Starbuck on Netflix or Amazon, because, well, Vince Vaughn.

Watch Starbuck on Netflix Instant, or buy or rent digital or hard copies from Amazon.