No one could have anticipated that the HBO documentary Bright Lights: Starring Debbie Reynolds And Carrie Fisher would have become the incredibly moving, touching eulogy of a pair of Hollywood icons gone too soon that it has. With #CarrieFisher's untimely passing Dec. 27 and the loss of #DebbieReynolds just a day later, Bright Lights has gone from being a love letter to two members of Hollywood royalty still enjoying the busy lifestyles that their celebrity provided to becoming the ultimate tribute.
At its heart, the documentary, filmed by #FisherStevens and #AlexisBloom, is a smartly filmed story of a mother-daughter team that has been powered by love through decades of mental illness, scandal, and a brief estrangement. Certainly, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds were never your typical mother-daughter team, but with Bright Lights, moms might just look at the two women and think that the extraordinary connection these two shared is something to aspire to - without the mental illness, scandal and estrangement, of course.
The love shared by Fisher and Reynolds for each other burned brighter than their celebrity, and that is perhaps the best tribute to two incredible women that there is. Yes, there are times where the two squabble, but every mother and child goes through that. There are moments of particular poignancy - Fisher trying to arrange for her ailing mother to receive the Screen Actors' Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, for instance, trying to navigate the logistics in such a way that her mother could rest and still not be ashamed of what her aging body needed. It's a moment, it seems, where Reynolds' frailty truly hits home, and Fisher struggles with seeing her always-energetic "tsu-Mommy," as she sometimes calls her, succumb to the realities of being in her 80s.
Reynolds' admiration for her daughter's talents is never hard to recognize. There's footage of a younger Fisher, belting out "Bridge Over Troubled Water," and Reynolds says, "Love that voice." It's clear that while Reynolds has a deep and abiding love for her daughter, she would have been thrilled to see her follow in her footsteps and become a singer as well.
While Reynolds' nightclub act and other commitments figure prominently in the documentary, Fisher's connection to the Star Wars universe also comes up. She has often described herself as the "custodian" to the Princess Leia legacy, and it's clear that Fisher has quite a different view on stardom. She describes her appearance at an autograph signing session for fans at a "mini-Comic Con" as a lap dance, except, she drily notes, money is not stuffed in her underwear.
Fisher and Reynolds also discuss Fisher's lifelong relationship with bipolar disorder, and Reynolds' concern for her daughter's health comes up as she discusses the transformation she witnessed when her only daughter turned 13. "It’s a constant battle, it takes all of us to assure her that she’s loved and that we’ll get her,” Reynolds says through tears.
There's a particularly raw part when Fisher admits to experiencing her first manic episode in some time, and it's clear that it's exhausting her. “You know what would be so cool?” she asks, exasperated. “To get to the end of my personality. And just like lay in the sun…I’m sick of myself.”
That sort of brave admission is part of what made Fisher so respected and admired as a mental health advocate. She never shied away from discussing her mental health challenges, and through that honesty, she was able to connect with far more fans than her own connection with the most iconic movie of all time would allow her.
The bond Fisher and Reynolds shared was also discussed by Todd, Fisher's younger brother and Reynolds' only son. He tweeted, in watching Bright Lights, that his mom and sister appeared lovingly frozen in time as a result of the documentary. His younger sisters, #JoelyFisher and #TriciaFisher, reminded him that they would be there for him as well.
Joely Fisher thanked Stevens for his care in protecting the "dynasty" that was the Fisher family, apparently touched at the relationship that Bright Lights highlighted between Carrie Fisher and her mother.
Whatever the relationship Fisher and Reynolds had with their own celebrity, it was clear that it was their relationship with each other that trumped everything. "I love you," Reynolds tells her daughter at the end of the documentary, as though she needed to remind her of that. It's love, at the end of the day, that defined these two women, and #BrightLights fittingly realizes and highlights that deep, fierce bond between two of Hollywood's most beloved stars.