October 24, 2013

Netflix Picks: Starbuck and The Brass Teapot

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A few weeks ago, there was a beautiful ad in The Sun for an egg donor to a same sex couple. Along with covering the basic medical expenses for the procedure, a $15,000 compensation was offered. And all of the broke co-eds of Cornell went, “Pick me! Pick me!” or at least seriously considered it. I know I did. But in a conversation with some friends, someone brought up a really interesting point: How would you feel knowing that you technically have a child out there, someone with your DNA who you will never know? But that’s just one. Imagine finding out that you have 533 offspring out there. Yeah. Take that in real quick.

Such is the premise of the French-Canadian film Starbuck, one of my Netflix picks this week. Directed and co-written by Ken Scott, the film tells the story of David Wozniak, a middle-aged meat delivery man who has $80,000 in debt and a baby with his girlfriend on the way. One day, he comes home to find a lawyer serving him papers from 124 of his offspring who are filing a lawsuit to find out the true identity of “Starbuck,” his donation alias at the sperm bank that he frequented from 1988-1990. Okay fine, this plot is ridiculous. No bank would allow a man to frequent it enough to make so many donations as to make $25,000 in a 2 year period. I’m not completely familiar with how much money one gets per semen sample, but it’s probably not the same as per egg donation from a female. But I’m just going out on a limb.

Anyway, the overall story is one of redemption as David finds time to spend with his various offspring (most of whom were really attractive despite their sperm donor being of average looks) and finally gains purpose in his life before his child comes into the world. There were plenty of hilarious moments as well as heartwarming ones, such as when he went to visit one of his children who has some debilitating defect. His son really can’t talk or do much, but he stays with him and enjoys his company regardless. And at the end, Starbuck/David wins his counter-suit to remain anonymous in order to cover his debt while later revealing himself to his “children.” And they all live happily ever after. And if you don’t want to read subtitles, you could always wait for the American remake (by the same director) coming out next month with Vince Vaughn. I am personally averse to Mr. Vaughn, but to each his own.

And continuing with the theme of balancing one’s debts and ludicrous plot lines, I also recommend The Brass Teapot, which is also streaming on Netflix. The film is about a young couple (played by indie darlings, Juno Temple and Michael Angarano) in the throes of massive debt. That is, until one day, Alice (Temple) comes across a brass teapot that pays … literally. While curling her hair, she accidentally burns herself and some crisp Benjamins magically appear. And then she continues to hurt herself as the teapot falls into a tizzy of windfall. She reveals the magic to her husband. They agree to stop the pain and suffering once they reach $1 million and are comfortably out of debt. The only problem is, how far are they willing to go in getting hurt in order to make this money? The teapot, like the audience surely, gets bored with the same old antics of swift kicks to the groin or stubbing of toes. The stakes must always be raised.

To further add complexity to the plot, others know about the teapot’s existence and want to get their hands on it, like the mysterious Chinese man who wants to get rid of it in order to break the curse. See, the teapot has a sort of Elder Wand legend behind it, a whole with-great-power-comes-great-responsibility kind of thing. There is also a couple of psychotic Orthodox Jews trying to get back their family heirloom. They’re a riot, but a little too over-the-top at times. Luckily, their involvement is limited. But despite this caricature-esque supporting cast, the movie does raise interesting questions as to how far we will go to make money without getting a respectable job. How quickly does our moral code get erased or strangely abstracted when there is a potentially high return in terms of money. I mean, how far would you go?

So those are my independent comedy recs for a Netflix movie night this weekend. I hope you enjoy!