Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds (2017)


Two weeks ago, the world was absolutely shaken by the loss of two incredible artists – Carrie Fisher, the iconic actress and writer known for her star-making turn in the Star Wars series, and Debbie Reynolds, one of the last remaining connections between the Golden Era of Hollywood and the modern world of entertainment. They died one day after the other, which is made even worse when you consider the fact that they were mother and daughter, and their deaths being so unbelievably close together is one of the most shocking events I have ever seen. They were national treasures, and the very best in their fields. The world lost two incredible artists, but more than anything else, their family lost two pivotal members, and moving away from the fact that both Carrie and Debbie were beloved showbusiness figures, they were also part of a family, and to lose two members so close to one another is beyond heartbreaking.

It seems so shockingly fitting that Fisher Stevens and Alexis Bloom were working on a documentary film about Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, and their loving relationship and their past, where they grew apart, and then eventually started to be an important part of each other’s lives. That film came to be this very documentary, Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, and unlike many documentaries about popular figures, it isn’t designed to appear to appeal to our emotions and make us cry at the fact that the subjects have left us – neither had died when this film premiered at Cannes last year – rather, it was supposed to just be a humble and quirky documentary about two larger-than-life ladies that were absolute icons – and ended up being one of the most heartbreaking and poignant films I have ever seen – and not a single touch of editing was done to reference the fact that both of them died, which makes this truly an extraordinary film.

Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, as the title suggests, has two subjects, and despite being mother and daughter, they could not be more different, and this film highlights this in so many places – they were completely different people, with different personalities and preferences and little idiosyncrasies – but they shared a very beautiful and tender love. This film is marvelous in its ability to show these two radically different women in a way that they both are distinctly individual yet so beautifully bound together. It is a film about two very different women that share an incredibly special bond, and even if it does seem to be telling two separate stories, this film constantly comes together to paint a beautiful portrait of two incredible and iconic women.

Carrie Fisher – I honestly adore this woman. She is an icon, and her performance in Star Wars is historic – but not only was she an iconic actress, she was also an incredible woman. She was an extraordinary writer and had an tremendous sense of humour – but she was also so deeply human, and she shared her struggles with mental health and drug addiction in such a way that we got to see the real Carrie Fisher, the person, rather than the movie star. If there wasn’t any reason to adore Carrie Fisher before, Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds will give you a reason to love her – hilarious, endearing and endlessly charming, the film shows Fisher as she deals with her life as an icon, as a writer and as a beloved public figure, but even more, as a daughter growing close to the mother she was once terribly isolated from, and knowing that her mother is slowly fading away, and how Carrie herself needs to, in a way, let her go. It may be slightly morbid to say, but Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds shows one very important thing – Carrie and Debbie were the most important people in each other’s lives, and it was clear that they couldn’t live without one another – and in some sad but sweet way, they don’t have to now.

Debbie Reynolds, despite being in her eighties while filming this documentary, seems to have the same plucky energy and endless charisma that she did when she was a young starlet that I adored in Singin’ in the Rain and The Unsinkable Molly Brown. It was wonderful to see that Debbie herself seemed to have even more energy than her daughter, which is a testament to the fact that Debbie Reynolds was a true, honest-to-god performer and entertainer. This film constantly shows that Debbie is always retiring, but that doesn’t last for long. Much like Cher and The Rolling Stones, Debbie’s current performance is always seemingly her finale performance, which this film very sarcastically shows is not always the case. While Carrie Fisher is endearing through her self-deprecating humour and sarcastic brilliance, Debbie is just so charming and sweet, and it is clear that they don’t make entertainers like Debbie Reynolds anymore. She fought right to the end, and even though the passage of time started to leave her frail and weak, she never let it consume her, and she was that same brilliantly energetic and motivated performer that she was in the 1950s.

Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds is such a nostalgic journey – and you’ll cry, considering recent events. Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds were unique and definitely one-of-a-kind. The fact that we lost both of them in the space of two days is utterly heartbreaking, and was a true shock. However, their legacies continue to live on, and their work is enough to solidify them as iconic figures. But most of all, like Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds shows, they were entertainers second, and mother and daughter first. It is an honest, sad and often very funny look into the lives of two ladies who were just quite simply larger than life. An absolutely wonderful documentary, and just superb work. Be warned – there will be tears…many, many tears.


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