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

Movie Poster - HBO
Movie Poster – HBO

The following is a review of Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds – Directed by Alexis Bloom & Fisher Stevens.

At the time of writing, it’s been just a week since the world lost two film icons – Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds. Now, HBO decided to release this documentary two months earlier than they had originally planned, and I’m sure a lot of people will think that HBO is just trying to capitalize on the situation.

That may, indeed, be what they wanted to do, but I’m not sure that’s really all that important to discuss. I think a lot of people needed this documentary right now – I really did – to spend 90 minutes longer with icons and role models we were all devastated to lose.

Bright Lights is a documentary about Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fishers’ quite unique mother-daughter relationship. At times it feels like nothing more than a tribute to their careers, which would’ve been enough for people like me who just wanted to spend some time ‘with’ these two.

But then, at a certain point, Bright Lights becomes more than just a documentary about a mother and her daughter. Bright Lights starts to focus on how fragile the always prepared and ready legend Debbie Reynolds was, and how her daughter – her best friend – was getting nervous for her.

The always brutally honest Carrie Fisher, who – when they were filming the documentary – was getting ready to return to Star Wars, was beginning to understand what state her mother was in, and Bright Lights really does capture that. But Bright Lights is not without its moments of laughter. Carrie Fisher was a very funny woman and seeing her give a tour of her house puts a smile on your face, even if your face is covered in tears.

And you will both laugh and cry during this documentary. Every moment just hits so hard and so deep that even these things that Debbie Reynolds, Carrie, and Todd Fisher say have this heartbreaking echo that is just so incredibly painful.

There are three moments that really got to me, and are really tough to watch without becoming emotional. First, there was this one moment where Debbie Reynolds is getting too tired to film anymore on that particular day, and we see her look at the camera, wave, blow us a kiss, and say ‘Thank You.’

There’s another moment where Carrie breaks down while explaining to people that her mother is without much ‘physical energy.’ And finally, a moment where Carrie and, I believe it was, Todd try to explain to their mother what exactly the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award was.

All in all, Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds – which would have felt very differently if we hadn’t lost these two stars – is a beautiful and bittersweet tribute to two icons. A love letter to Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, two people who loved each other so very much.

9 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex

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