David Essex is the top billed actor but this movie is a tour de force for fellow pop idol Adam Faith, who plays his manager. In truth it's Faith's film from start to finish. His down to earth, world-weary personna contrasts with Essex more star-struck, fragile character and the two combine well to explore the increasingly bizarre world of a working-class rock star on the road to oblivion. Essex' role seems more a supporting act to Faith's in STARDUST compared to THAT'LL BE THE DAY in which he plays the same role of Jim Maclean, a the bright but rather wayward would-be rock star. In truth Essex is better in the earlier film but the increasingly detached way he appears in Stardust does reflect the self destructing Maclean's progress up the ladder of fame but down the ladder of self control and self belief. The other popstar/actors in the cast all perform well, Paul Nicholas as 'Kneetremble Johnny' is the kind of brash self confident Jack-the-lad that we all remember from school, Kieth Moon is, well himself, mad, bad and wild on the drums. Dave Edmunds seems to be enjoying himself throughout and the non-pop star among them, Karl Howman gives good support as the keyboard player. In general they are a charismatic bunch and appear rather more like a real band than most movie versions. The direction has some good moments although it's less earthy and gritty than THAT'LL BE THE DAY, but the surprise is a script that crackles with believable dialogue and the ocassional burst of foul language.In many ways it's not at all the expected starry vehicle for it's leading man. Essex' cool nice-guy stage persona contrast quite starkly with the seriously flawed, pill popping, three-in-a-bed Maclean and no doubt this movie was shocking on it's initial release, not least to the parents who were previously relieved that Essex wasn't the same kind of "bad influence" on their teenage daughters as the Rolling Stones! There are scenes where the sense of time and place are not quite achieved. The audience at one concert look more 1974 than 1965 in their attire and time slips by on several ocassions without clear definition; are those cars quite right for the late 60s or are we already in 1972? It's not a pleasant film, not a feel-good movie. Quite the opposite, it evokes impressions of talent wasted and abused by a system wringing the last dollar out of everyone. Faith's line sums it up "...I own half of you!" and as many an artist in the industry will no doubt concur, his kind of character really does!
A grim, gritty, hard hitting movie, Far more so that many a critic would have us believe. Proof once again that the British film industry of the 1970s was far from dead and buried.