There's no doubt that Bright Lights — HBO's heartfelt and hilarious documentary on the singular relationship between Debbie Reynolds and her daughter Carrie Fisher — takes on special significance in the wake of the actresses' tragic deaths.
The film, directed by Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens, premiered last year at Cannes. Many critics noted the bittersweetness of Reynolds' determination to perform as her health declined in their initialreviews at the time, but the thought of losing Fisher seemed unimaginable.
Indeed, much of the film is concerned with Fisher and her brother Todd trying to reconcile themselves with their mother's failing health, with neither of them quite ready to reckon with the possibility of living in a world without her.
See photos of Fisher and Reynolds through the years
"Everything in me demands that my mother be as she always was, even if that way is irritating. She just can't change, that's the rule, and she's fucking with me," Fisher notes early on. "Age is horrible for all of us, but she falls from a greater height."
Now that these two bright lights have gone out, you can't help but view the film through the lens of what we have lost, making the documentary "as satisfying as a good wake," as the Washington Post's review put it. It's a fitting eulogy for two of Hollywood's most fascinating and contradictory figures, each a force of nature in her own way.
Their sometimes combative relationship often drew comparisons to Grey Gardens and Mommie Dearest in the press — no doubt due to Fisher's semi-autobiographical novel, Postcards from the Edge, and its subsequent film adaptation starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine. But the biggest takeaway from Bright Lights is the indisputable devotion between the two women. (Indeed, according to TMZ, Todd Fisher revealed that Reynolds' last words were "I want to be with Carrie.")
"I think I'm my mom's best friend, more than a daughter," Fisher remarks at one point, after she pops across the Beverly Hills compound the two women shared (in separate houses) to visit Reynolds.
Check out Fisher's most memorable quotes
"My mother really wants me to be an extension of her wishes, an extension of her, and to a great degree — far more sometimes than I ever would want to — I know what my mother feels and wants, and there's a lot of it."
"I share everything with my daughter — especially the check," Reynolds quips soon after.
While Reynolds is undoubtedly more reserved during her interviews than Fisher, Bright Lights proves to be a revealing portrait of the two stars, excavating old resentments and insecurities as well as the fierce love and protectiveness they shared.
Below, read some of the most candid, poignant and hilarious quotes from Bright Lights:
Carrie Fisher on the one thing her mother never forgave her for: "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 Reynolds on Carrie's singing talents: "Carrie's daddy Eddie had a great voice. 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."
Fisher on her troubled relationship with her father, Eddie Fisher: "He came and stayed with me; he came to me and said, 'I need like 5, 10 thousand dollars for clothes.' I said, 'I don't have it.' He went, 'you don't have it?' And he now points to my house, 'you don't have it?' I said, 'dad, you're a singer, not an actor — don't make a scene.'"
Fisher on her father's fading star: "It just makes me cringe when you think about stars who aren't stars anymore; it's humiliating."
Reynolds on her failed marriages: "I should've married Burt Reynolds; I wouldn't have to change my last name, and we could share wigs."
Fisher on her mother's work ethic: "It is very frustrating for her because inside, my mom is the same person, and she doesn't want to retire. She does not want to retire. Performing gives her life, it feeds her in a way that family cannot. That's why I think we've always been frustrating, because people aren't cooperative, audiences are... When you're her, they are."
See Reynolds' active life
Fisher on her childhood: "It was a prototype life. We were getting ready for a photo shoot all the time. That was what Todd and I shared; Todd and I had a shared history of weirdness."
Fisher on Postcards from the Edge: "I was very unhappy back then. I was just a mess, and some of the things that are in the movie happened."
Fisher on being bipolar: "I knew something was the matter with me — I went too fast, I was too much, and I was embarrassed of it."
Reynolds on Carrie's mental health struggles: "Manic depressive is a disease that was not diagnosed then, so nobody knew what was going on. It's a constant battle that takes all of us to assure her that she's loved and that we'll get her. It's hard, that's the hardest part."
Fisher on fan conventions: "We are at a lap dance — celebrity lap dance, where celebrities of all shapes and ages sign autographs for cash prizes. It's sort of like going to a strip club, except they don't stuff cash in your underwear."
Fisher on Princess Leia: "They love her and I'm her custodian and I'm the closet you're gonna get. She's me and I'm her."
Fisher on dealing with the paparazzi after her father left her mother to date Elizabeth Taylor: "They were trampling me and Todd to get to her. The sensation was that she belonged to them."
Fisher on struggling with her weight: "My question is, if you die when you're fat, are you a fat ghost, or do you go back to a flattering time?"
Reynolds on her career ambitions: "I'm gonna stay on stage until I drop dead, and then I'm gonna have myself stuffed like Trigger, and then I'll put me in a museum."
See photos of Fisher's private memorial
Fisher on losing her virginity: "My mother offered for me to have sex with this guy Albert, and she would supervise Albert and I having sex. She apparently had some tips on that... 'you take the staff of life, and the grapes.'"
Fisher on her bipolar disorder: "You know what would be so cool? To get to the end of my personality and just lay in the sun."
Reynolds, after receiving the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, when asked if she'd accept another one: "I can't answer it because it's too special and I won't be here then, I will have gone on. You don't get a chance to have a moment like this very often."
Both on keeping it real:
Fisher: "Do you like Todd better than me?
Reynolds: No, it's just that you're different, every child is different.
Fisher: I don't buy this.
Reynolds: You never bought anything I said so far.
Fisher: What does he get in the will and what do I get?
Reynolds: Oh, I'm not gonna tell anybody that."