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The Independent Critic

Patrick Huard, Julie LeBreton, Patrick Martin
Ken Scott
Ken Scott, Martin Petit
Rated R
109 Mins.
Entertainment One

 "Starbuck" Works Its Charm and Wins You Over 
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Sometimes, you just plain like a film.

It doesn't matter if the film is perfect. It doesn't matter if it makes sense. Sometimes, it doesn't even matter if the acting is spot-on or the technical achievements are particularly impressive. Sometimes, a film just hits the right spot.

Starbuck hits the right spot.

Opening in Indianapolis this first weekend in May, Starbuck is a French language film starring Patrick Huard as David Wozniak, a 42-year-old perpetually immature and irresponsible man with substantial debt, a pregnant girlfriend (Julie LeBreton) and an unexpected legal problem.

Make that 533 legal problems. When David was a younger man, he picked up extra cash at a nearby sperm bank. Now, years later, it's learned that the sperm bank had run into a few problems and handed out David's "contributions" an unfathomable 533 times and now 142 of those tadpoles turned teens/young adults have filed a class-action lawsuit trying to force the sperm bank to reveal the identity of the man who was known only as "Starbuck" at the sperm bank.

So now, the man whose girlfriend has decided he's unfit to raise even one child is faced with the prospect of being outed as the unintentional father of 533.

While it sounds like Starbuck is all set up for a couple hours of cheap laughs, co-writer/director Ken Scott instead turns the film into an emotionally satisfying and meaningful experience with gentle, naturally developed laughs that will remind you rather quickly this is not an American made film.

In case you're wondering, yes, the American version is coming under the title The Delivery Man with Vince Vaughn in the lead role. Fortunately, Scott is also scheduled to direct the American version.

Starbuck has some tone issues, especially when there are scenes that bounce between David's debt collectors and his growing attempts at anonymously trying to get to know the young adults he's sired. The film also pretty much produces (or should I say reproduces?) just about every young adult stereotype one can think of along David's journey ranging from one heroin addicted young lady to an emo young man desperately seeking connection to a promising young busker to, just to tug the heartstrings a bit more, a young man with serious disabilities who lives in some sort of residential home.

In other words, much of Starbuck is formulaic and cliche'd.

It still works.

It works because Patrick Huard gives a warm and winning performance as David, possessing such a remarkable sincerity that even those times when your American moviegoing eyes are expecting the film to cater to the lowest common denominator it never does.

There's no uncomfortable "chemistry" between father and his attractive daughters. There's no uncomfortable and awkward "dating" when the "siblings" involved in the lawsuit gather for a weekend camping get together. There's genuine heart where one usually gets cloying sentimentality in American films.

Despite all the formulas and cliches, you can't help but root for David because Huard makes him a genuinely likable guy while never denying his flaws. It's a credit to Huard and to a terrific by LeBreton as his girlfriend that despite all of his flaws, their relationship for the most part feels believable. While his maturation is constantly called into question, it's easy to understand what they see in each other despite the fact that she's quite the opposite.

There's also an awareness that the more David integrates himself into the lives of his "children" that it's rather ludicrous that no one figures it out but, once again, the stories themselves are filled with such a richness of humanity and an honesty that it's easy to forgive any flaws.

If there's a lesson in Starbuck, I believe, it's that "family" is essential and what that means is different for everyone. If you're someone who has ever found yourself using the phrase "family of choice" then Starbuck is likely going to be a film you will absolutely love. While David has long had a solid connection with his blood family, it's when he finds himself surrounded by his "children" that he truly begins to understand the joy of family.

Starbuck is currently on a limited nationwide run through arthouse/indie theaters with distrib Entertainment One, and it's a film that fits nicely into the framework of other french films that have found an audience in the U.S. with its identifiable characters and gentle, universal humor.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic