AFI Fest 2016 Review: Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds

Fans should enjoy the up-close look that Bright Lights provides of the women in this interesting biography.
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Filled with a treasure trove of archival material, Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds shines a spotlight on both the on-screen and off-camera lives of the famous mother-daughter actresses.

Directors Fisher Stevens and Alexis Bloom take cameras on the road and into the homes of Carrie and Debbie, who live next to each other. Debbie is seen performing her show in a Connecticut casino, and there's footage of Carrie at 15 years old taking part in her mom's show. Carrie goes to a convention known as Fan Expo, where she charges $70 for an autograph. In her brash humorous way, she likens it to going to a strip club, where fans get the equivalent of a lap dance from a celebrity, but she embraces the enthusiasm of her fans even if they are only focused on her work in Star Wars.

The film makes no effort to hide the women's flaws, and how could they considering how open they've been about their lives, especially Carrie. Debbie's son Todd is also interviewed. In addition to Eddie Fisher, who Carrie visits with three months before his death, the kids talk of Debbie's second husband, Harry Karl, whose personal issues of gambling, hookers, and alcohol, which led to their divorce.

During the filming, Debbie has a rough go of it, emotionally, as she talks about Carrie's personal issues, and physically as well She is not feeling well when Carrie heads off to London to work on The Force Awakens. Two weeks before an auction of movie memorabilia collected over the years for a museum that never came to fruition, Debbie fell in her bathroom and got very bruised.

It's also clear Debbie is in her twilight years. She performs in what is likely her last show in Vegas, even though the kids has wanted her to stop sooner. She is also honored with the SAG Lifetime Achievement Award, which is given to her by Carrie. When they get home, their personalities continue to shine through: Debbie remains fond of show business and Carrie cracks wise.

While Brights Lights is an entertaining documentary, those who aren't fans of the women or their work might not find it as engaging because portions of their stories, the ones relating to being famous actresses, don't always have a universal connection.

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