New Documentary Helps Us Mourn Hollywood’s Best Mother-Daughter Team

Photo: HBO
Carrie Fisher Debbie Reynolds documentary Bright Lights
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Their truth is more beautiful than any fiction written.

One of 2016’s cruelest moments occurred right at the end, when mother-daughter Hollywood legends Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher died just one day apart. (Carrie went first, followed closely by her mother.)

If you want to know more about their complex bond, a new documentary, Bright Lights, all about their relationship is debuting on HBO on January 7th.

The footage looks fascinating. A mixture of interviews, home movies, and new footage of the documentary crew following the pair around Los Angeles. In their later years, Fisher and Reynolds lived next door to each other, with Carrie often taking the role of caretaker for her aging mother.

In the trailer, Fisher notes, “I’m my mom’s best friend,” a remark that inspired Reynolds to jokingly shoot back with “I share everything with my daughter — especially the check.”

Those moments are not only priceless, but they also feel more honest than a lot of the manufactured narratives surrounding the pair’s passing.

There has been a tendency by the media to romanticize the idea of a mother passing away right after her daughter, to portray it like The Notebook or some kind of doomed love story. But the relationship between Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher wasn’t that simple.

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Thanks to interviews and Fisher’s writing — her novel Postcards from the Edge and her memoir Wishful Drinking, in particular — we know that their mother-daughter bond was a hard-won thing.

They went through years of turmoil, fighting, mistakes, and emotional distress to end up where they did when they passed.

There was a great appearance that Fisher and Reynolds made on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2011 that touches on so many aspects of their life together. They both struggled with fame, Fisher fought against bipolar depression and drug use, and yet there was always a lightness between them. A friendly, knowing banter that was endearing and emotional. They sing together at the end of the Oprah appearance and it’s a surprisingly touching moment.

Hopefully, we’ll continue to see more shades of their relationship in Bright Lights.

The timing of the documentary might feel eerie, but it’s wonderful that, so quickly following their death, we’ll have such a personal reminder of how Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds really felt about each other.

Both women found a way to touch the world with their performing careers (in vastly different ways), so it feels good to have one last opportunity to celebrate their careers and remember them as more than just a touching Hollywood anecdote — they were a real mother-and-daughter team, warts-and-all, until the day they died. And that’s beautiful.

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