'Bright Lights': 6 Emotional Moments From Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds' Documentary
By John Boone
Photo: Getty Images
Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds are gone -- Fisher died at the age of 60 on Dec. 28 and her mother one day later, at 84 -- but there is no chance either will ever be forgotten. The first marker of their lasting legacy is the HBO documentary, Bright Lights, which mixes old family movies and clips of their most famous films, alongside a quirky, glitzy Grey Gardens-esque look at their unique mother-daughter love story.
The doc premieres tonight on HBO and, especially in light of both women's passing, proves equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming. Here are six of Bright Lights' most emotional moments:
1. "I'm going to stay onstage until I drop dead." The documentary's earliest scenes take place in the duo's shared compound as Debbie prepares to head off to one of her shows. A worried Carrie wonders what toll performing is taking on her mother, prompting Debbie to rattle off that George Burns quote. "Then I'm going to have myself stuffed, like Trigger, and I'm going to put me in a museum," she smiles. "You like that?"
"She'll forget she's not 35. It doesn't make sense to her that her body isn't cooperating. She just thinks if she ignores it, it will go away," Carrie explains to the camera. "Age is horrible for all of us, but she falls from a greater height."
2. "I love that voice." Over vintage footage of her 15-year-old self singing in her mother's stage show, Carrie explains, "The biggest thing I did that broke my mother's heart was not do a nightclub act. My mother would say, 'Do drugs. Do whatever you need to do. But why don't you sing?!' That was my big rebellion."
Debbie then weighs in, saying, "I guess she doesn't want to be Eddie and she doesn't want to be Debbie. She wants to be Carrie, so she'll do it her way." She says as she chokes up. "I love that voice. Isn't that a great voice?" She chuckles to herself. "I wish I had it."
3. "She's my idol." During a fan convention, Carrie humbly rebuffs how beloved she is by Star Wars fans, reasoning, "They love her and I'm her custodian. I'm as close as you're going to get." However, during an autograph signing -- or what Carrie calls a "celebrity lap dance" -- one fan tearfully explains the impact of the woman behind Princess Leia's buns.
"She's, like, my idol," the woman, Liz, explains. "She just epitomizes a strong woman who speaks her mind, doesn't care what anybody else thinks. And I wish I were more like that."
4. "It was a constant battle." In the portion of Bright Lights that focuses on Carrie's manic-depressive disorder and well-documented addition issues, she explains, "I went too fast, I was too much, and I was embarrassed of it...I couldn't handle it. I didn't know what it was."
"No one knew what was going on with Carrie," Debbie recalls of the changes that affected her 13-year-old daughter. "So, it's a constant battle. It takes all of us to assure her that she is loved and that...we'll get her." On the brink of crying, she adds, "That's the hardest part."
5. "I wanted to be your best girl." The presence of Carrie's now-late father and Debbie's first husband, singer Eddie Fisher, can be felt throughout the film, though he only appears in person in one scene. Eddie became estranged from his children after leaving Debbie for Liz Taylor, though they reconnected before his death in 2010.
"You love me?" Carrie asks her ailing father in one scene. He rasps, "I'm crazy about you." After a moment he asks back, "But do you love me?" "I love you," she says, and then adds, "You're lovable."
6. "Debbie deserves it." Throughout the movie, we see the lengths Carrie goes to to take care of her mother, who she also says is her best friend. "She was very good to her mother and her mother didn't deserve it," Carrie says at one point. "Debbie deserves it."
The film ends with Carrie presenting her mom the SAG Awards' Life Achievement Award. Afterward, Carrie asks her mom if she was offered another lifetime achievement award if she would accept it. "I won't be here then. I will have gone on," Debbie replies. "You don't get a chance to have a moment like this very often. It's not like any moment. It's its own special moment."