An upcoming HBO documentary about the relationship between Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, will now become a far more somber experience than the filmmakers envisioned.
This week, the film community was shocked and saddened when actresses Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds both died within the span of two days. Fisher had a number of projects in the works, but one that had already been completed was a documentary called Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.
Directed by Fisher Stevens and Alexis Bloom, the movie examines every aspect of this mother-daughter relationship, pulling no punches and showing the struggles that both women dealt with throughout their lives.
Bright Lights premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, and critics who saw it described the movie as touching and sweet. It was originally expected to air on HBO in May 2016, but HBO has now announced that it will premiere on Saturday, January 8th at 8:00 pm. Eastern Time, according to Variety.
“It’s life with Carrie and Debbie. It’s about both of them trying to stand upright, both having their frailties — age on the one hand and mental illness on the other. It’s a love story about a mother and daughter — they happen to be Carrie and Debbie,” Shelia Nevins, president of HBO Documentary Films, told Variety earlier this week.
In light of recent events, some scenes in the movie may be extremely upsetting to watch, far more so than they were when the film premiered earlier this year.
For example, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the film features a sequence in which Debbie Reynolds is scheduled to go to the Screen Actors Guild Awards but is unsure she will be able to make it due to her fragility. In another scene, Reynolds does not want to be filmed by the documentarians because she is in poor health and does not want to be seen that way.
“As Bright Lights continues Reynolds’ health worsens,” critic Gregory Ellwood writes in his review for The Playlist. “She appropriately sets her final show back in Vegas, but has to use as a mobility scooter to make her way through the casino unrecognizable to the crowd milling about.”
This whole situation causes Carrie Fisher to experience a manic episode, which is captured on camera and included in the movie.
Bright Lights also shows Carrie Fisher continuing to smoke cigarettes and drink soda much to the chagrin of her personal trainer, who at one point takes Fisher’s can of Coca-Cola and pours it into the sink. And while on the topic of health, Fisher asks, “My question is, if you die when you’re fat, are you a fat ghost, or do they go back to a more flattering time?”
However, the film does evidently make clear that this mother-daughter relationship was not quite as contentious as one might expect based on Fisher’s 1987 semi-autobiographical novel Postcards From the Edge, which was adapted into a popular 1990 movie.
Although Bright Lights was already on the radar of fans of these actresses and of HBO documentaries, the tragic events of this past week will likely attract many additional viewers who want to see some of the last remaining footage of two of Hollywood’s most legendary performers.