Picking up where That'll Be the Day left off, Stardust travels some now-familiar territory -- the empty life of a rock star -- but does so with a mixture of sincerity and cynicism that makes it score a notch above other similar films. Michael Apted's direction is a bit less gritty than Claude Whatham's on Day, giving Stardust a bit of a sheen that the earlier film lacked -- but this is entirely appropriate to the subject matter and reflects the somewhat unreal lifestyle that the characters begin to experience as things progress. And Apted does an excellent job of keeping the characters real even as their lives become increasingly removed from the mainstream. He's aided by a pair of topnotch performances from David Essex and Adam Faith (the latter in the role that Ringo Starr created in Day.) Faith is exceptional, at times stealing the movie with the spot-on interpretation of the kind of greedy, petty sleazebag manager that too many rock performers know. Essex's work is equally good, but as his character becomes increasingly remote and removed, the actor's contribution becomes easier to overlook. Elements of Stardust have been used in many film, so they don't have the impact they once did, but the bleakness infusing this film makes it stand out from others with similar stories.