You may think you learned all you needed to know about the mother/daughter relationship of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher when you saw Shirley MacLaine and Meryl Streep play them in the film adaptation of Fisher's roman à clef Postcards from the Edge (1990)—but that's only part of the story.
That's a really juicy part of the story, but still, only part of it.
Since then, Fisher—who has gotten her bipolar disorder under control—has been a devoted caretaker, best friend and immediate neighbor to her mom, one of the last survivors from Hollywood's Golden Age, and their whacky, tempestuous, deeply loving relationship is captured in all its gory glory in Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher & Debbie Reynolds, which screened October 10 at the New York Film Festival in NYC.
The film, directed by Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens, bravely and honestly follows what appears to be the twilight of 84-year-old Reynolds' time as a star, as a working performer and on earth.
Though she seemed as sharp as a tack and as spunky as ever when I saw her four years ago at the Cinecon film fest, she was visibly diminished accepting her SAG Award in 2015, a process captured in heart-stopping detail in Bright Lights.
Now, Reynolds seems to be almost 100% retired, and it's certainly against her will. Fisher—who says many poignant and thought-provoking things in the documentary—sums up why her mother's journey is so interesting to us all, pointing out that, “Age is hard for all of us, but she falls from a greater height,” something that's true of any great star, great beauty, greatly physical performer.
Fisher and her brother, Todd Fisher, display complete love and clear-eyed understanding of their superstar mom, who is both genuinely sweet and genuinly smitten with stardom, battling forces that led to a successful career but family strife in the past, and above all, all three of them approach themselves and their situations with admirable and infectious humor.
What can you say about these people whose family unit was torn asunder by Elizabeth Taylor—who ran off with Reynolds's husband Eddie Fisher (who appears in the film on his deathbed)—and yet who seem to reference her on a daily basis? Reynolds owned many of La Liz's most famous movie costumes, Todd Fisher has a Cleopatra poster hanging in his house.
When Bright Lights airs on HBO later this year, you'll undoubtedly find yourself more impressed than ever by Fisher's wit and grit (and her singing voice), and by Debbie's determination to remain as optimistic as her body will allow.
Just an absolutely touching and enthralling piece of work—which could also be said of the people in it.
After the jump, Debbie filmed this year for her Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Oscar ...