Tag Archives: Carrie Fisher

Bright Lights: Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds

Carrie Fisher & Debbie Reynolds Obituary & “Bright Lights” Film Review

Combo Obituary & Film Review:
Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds

Fat Ghost, Lying in the Sun

Bright Lights: Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds
Bright Lights: Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds

In the soon-to-be-aired HBO documentary, Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, a film that depicts the most famous (and most notorious) mother-daughter duo of all time, which debuted at Cannes and was also presented as part of the 2016 New York Film Festival, and is now set to debue on HBO on Saturday, January 7th at 8 pm, Carrie Fisher, weary from the ongoing self-examination (and public scrutiny) of a complicated life that included fame from birth, bipolar disorder, addiction, sensational stardom in her own right, impressive amounts of both accomplishment and ridicule, and a spectacular array of variously disastrous and glorious events, all survived with her renowned wit and tenacity…  Carrie Fisher says “You know what would be really good? To get to the end of my personality and just lie in the sun.” Carrie Fisher died unexpectedly yesterday – 12/27/16, at the age of 60, and I take comfort in believing that she has finally gotten to the end of her personality and is now somewhere lying in the sun and resting in peace. There is no one who deserves that more. (Heart-wrenching update: Debbie Reynolds has now died from a stroke, just one day after her daughter died from a heart attack. Reynolds was a singer, dancer and actress who started her career as a teenager.)

It’s a mother and child reunion, as Carrie’s ex would say.

Carrie Fisher
Carrie Fisher: Once She Was Beautiful

In the film, Bright Lights, directed by Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens, Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds are shown to live next door to each other – in memorabilia-packed homes worthy of preservation by the Smithsonian Institute – and seem to have genuinely and lovingly overcome their many adversities and, most importantly, their adversarial relationship with each other. Both iconic women, with fame spanning from Singin’ in the Rain to Star Warssix decades on stage and screen, have lived in the spotlight all their lives, including the film Postcards from the Edge, which was based on Carrie Fisher’s best-selling semi-autobiographical book about her rocky relationship with her mother (in which the two are appropriately portrayed by another two showbiz legends, Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine, respectively). And yet in this documentary film, Bright Lights, Carrie and Debbie open up in surprisingly candid and casual ways. It is a rare and wonderful look into the hearts and day-to-day lives of two genuine Greats and also two genuine Train Wrecks who have an unbreakable bond. And now, after their deaths, this film is the best possible tribute to both of them. It is sort of a love letter they wrote to each other.

Carrie Fisher Debbie Reynolds
Carrie Fisher with Her Mother Debbie Reynolds

Plus, it’s hilarious! Don’t even think for a minute about sappy or overly-laudatory. In truth, I was expecting more painfully clever and self-deprecating self-analysis, of the kind that made up Fisher’s 2008 memoir and then live show, Wishful Drinking. But this film is something else altogether. It is touching without being maudlin and it is uplifting without being pretentious. It is outright JOYFUL. It is a sort of montage – out of order, without narration (but with lots of fresh interviews), that bounces through a bounty of colorful, lively, glamorous, quirky, and musical moments, which add up to something oddly inspiring. When is the last time you saw a movie that made you glad to have lived every difficult, distressing moment of your life? This is it.

The film is laden with quotable quips, which just keep on coming. The film opens with old 16-mm family-movie footage, and Debbie Reynolds insisting that Carrie had a happy childhood. “I have the films to prove it,” she says. Carrie suggests that maybe the footage is fake: “I don’t buy it.” Debbie replies, “You never bought anything I said.”

Carrie Fisher as a child with her mother Debbie Reynolds
Carrie Fisher as a child with her mother Debbie Reynolds

At one point, Debbie muses, “I should have married Burt Reynolds. I wouldn’t have had to change my name, and we could have shared wigs.” Ha!

Later, Debbie – age 83 at the time of filming, tells how she still cannot give up show business; it is her life, even though she can barely make it through each performance. She describes how one show left her lying on the floor. Carrie adds, “but in a good, dignified movie-star way.” Debbie justifies with, “The only way to get through life is to fight.” Carrie explains,

“Age is horrible for all of us, but she falls from a greater height.”

The fact that Carrie Fisher has died before the wide release of the film by HBO (and just one day before her mother) is… a bit of a stunner. Because much of the film is about the increasing fragility of Fisher’s mother, Debbie Reynolds, and how they are both dealing with the impending end of that still-singing life. The final moments of the movie document the two as Reynolds is about to receive the 2014 Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, and how her weakening health puts her live attendance at the show in jeopardy. Fisher, with breaking heart, goes to great length to make the live appearance happen.

Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds
Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds

And not only that, she joins her mother on stage and sings. She shows her beautiful voice, which earlier in the film Reynolds had bragged about and revealed how much she loved, after which Fisher confessed that it was her big act of rebellion – to not make a career of singing, as a way of frustrating her mother. But there they are on screen, in their truly golden years, singing together, and it is marvelous.

Helen Highly recommended this documentary when she first saw it at NYFF2016, but now more than ever it’s a must-see. Perhaps HBO will decide to present it sooner than its original March air-date, due to these recent deaths. (Update: HBO has announced that the film will air next week!) But it is a triumphant testimony to the power of love to overcome adversity and pain. These women did it. If they could, perhaps we can too.

I link now to the essay I wrote about Carrie Fisher last year, titled “Carrie Fisher and The Star Wars Review I Couldn’t Write.” I had been assigned to write a movie review of the new Star Wars movie, but I realized I had nothing to say about it. I did, however, have some thoughts about Carrie Fisher’s body and how she had aged. I kept those thoughts between me and my friend who accompanied me to the movie… until I read about the huge twitter war that had erupted over all the tweets about Carrie Fisher’s body, and her reaction to those tweets, followed by a New York Post article that brought the petty but ongoing battle to the main stage and gave it national attention. The episode turned into a feminist cause.

In my essay, I spoke at times directly to Carrie, (If you will only click your heels three times, you will see that you had already won this twitter war before it began), and I would have loved to know that she read my comments, although I doubt she did. But that essay seems more relevant now than at the time I wrote it. It is a kind of career review and tribute to Carrie Fisher – a nod to her wit and nobility, as well as her brilliantly imperfect humanity.

The Beloved "Star Wars" Trilogy
The Beloved “Star Wars” Trilogy

And I will finish with another quote from Bright Lights, in which Carrie references her ongoing battle with her weight. “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?” Carrie, I think you will be a bright and dazzling ghost, no matter the size. You will always be remembered and always be loved. That much I know. And I hope your ghost will be at peace, lying in the sun. Debbie Reynolds: I can see you already, singing in heaven.

— by Helen Kaplow, writing as HelenHighly

Read: Carrie Fisher and the Star Wars Review I Couldn’t Write

Watch: Bright Lights documentary trailer

OMG! Debbie Reynolds has died of a stroke, just one day after her daughter Carrie Fisher died of a heart attack. All of our hearts are broken! Read about it here.

News: HBO has announced the film will air next week.

Did you know Carrie Fisher was on the cover of Rolling Stone — twice?

Carrie Fisher in Rolling Stone
Carrie Fisher in Rolling Stone magazine
Carrie and Co-Stars When They Were Young

Carrie Fisher and the Star Wars Review I Didn’t Write

Helen Highly Recommends Carrie Fisher Quit Twitter
Am I THAT Guy?!

by Helen Kaplow, as HelenHighly

Carrie Fisher has aged.
Carrie Fisher has aged.

Q: Is it true that HelenHighly, a self-professed socially-and-politically-conscious woman, walked out of the movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and immediately made a comment about Carrie Fisher’s body?
A: Yes. (Should I feel guilty? Not sure yet.)

Q: Was it rude and inappropriate for journalist Kyle Smith to publicly suggest to Carrie Fisher that she give up acting if she didn’t like continually having her body scrutinized and criticized by everyone and anyone due to the way she aged?
A: Yes. (I think we can all agree that disrespect is always the wrong approach for a professional when speaking about one’s subject, and certainly the wrong way to speak about a beloved Princess.)

Q: Did Carrie Fisher show us all up by replying with simultaneous wit, candor, and bada-bing punch, thus reminding those who criticized and/or gossiped that she is better than them (us), and that she still has it – “it” being bright, lively talent?
A: Yes indeed. Go Carrie!

Carrie Fisher Is Defiant
Carrie Fisher Is Defiant

But the harder question remains: That nasty reporter guy judged Carrie Fisher’s body, and HelenHighly also judged Carrie Fisher’s body. Am I that guy?!*

Here’s the story:

I am no Star Wars fan. However, I got an assignment to write about the new movie “Star Wars:….mumble.. whatever.” The assignment was for The Film Box, the mostly action-movie website where I occasionally post commentary. (I provide balance.) To counter the geek perspective, I had been asked to write from a non-fan woman’s point of view. But until now, I have not completed my Star Wars assignment, because I couldn’t think of anything interesting to say.

“Do I feel guilty? Hell no; Lucas made $4 billion.”

Correction: In an effort to deliver something, I did write a news blurb that unfairly attacked George Lucas, creator of Star Wars, for jokingly using the term “white slavers” in regard to the Disney Co., to whom he sold the franchise for $4 billion in 2012 and now is criticizing for their handling of his “kids.” And then I wrote another news story announcing that he had apologized, but I doubted his sincerity. So, I got two articles out of Lucas, both based on over-blown nonsense. Do I feel guilty? Hell no; Lucas made $4 billion selling overblown nonsense (named Star Wars). He’s filthy rich; his feelings don’t matter. (Although, it might bear mentioning that during this attack on what Lucas said, no one commented on what he looked like.) But back to this story:

I did want to see the movie just because it got so crazy-much attention in the media that I felt I was obligated to see it, as a U.S. citizen and occupant of our galaxy. I admit that the film itself did nothing for me, but I did enjoy watching the audience respond enthusiastically each time one of their old favorites (and old, favorites – with comma) – be it actor or spaceship – made an appearance.

The Beloved "Star Wars" Trilogy
The Beloved Star Wars Trilogy

These old favorites, brought back from the cult trilogy (1977 – 1983), include male leads, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill. And also there is the female lead, Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) – the adventure-heroine and super-hot It-Girl of the original Star Wars, and an idolized icon because of it. I am told that a generation of teenage boys grew up with posters on their bedroom walls of Carrie Fisher in a gold bikini– the same metal bikini she wore as a costume in the second film. That poster is from a photo-shoot Fisher did with Rolling Stone, back in 1983, when she was a 27-year-old starlet. (Pretty hip to be on the cover of Rolling Stone – twice, actually.)

Carrie Fisher Rocks with "Rolling Stone"
Carrie Fisher Rocks with Rolling Stone

Fisher has gone on to have a successful career in the industry – as an actress, producer, and screenwriter, including writing the semi-autobiographical film Postcards from the Edge, (based on one of her own hit books) in which the Carrie-ish character is portrayed by none other than Meryl Streep (the best actress ever). Carrie Fisher is Somebody.

Carrie Fisher: Once She Was Beautiful
Carrie Fisher: Once She Was Beautiful

But to the people in the movie theater with me, watching the latest Star Wars film-phenomenon, Carrie Fisher is and always will be Princess Leia, the great and legendary… (I don’t know; this is where they lose me). And those people literally cheered for Carrie Fisher – not only with excitement when they first saw her in this new film, but also after each scene in which she appeared.

So, Carrie: People love you. They love seeing you on screen. Don’t doubt that fact.

And I will say that, for me (and I believe for most others as well), Carrie Fisher brought an authentic warmth and humanity to a movie that is…  mostly metal. Okay, I probably stand alone with my “mostly metal” comment, but I challenge anyone to say they did not both enjoy and respect Fisher’s performance in this film.

“For Carrie to escape the unfair cruelties of this world, she would have to get on a spaceship and find another galaxy, far, far away.”

Well, I never wrote the film review because I decided that I am not Star-Wars-knowledgeable enough to say anything intelligent about the movie. And I was going to walk away and start writing my next commentary – slated to be a combo-review of two different documentaries about great women– Peggy Guggenheim and Janis Joplin (who seem to me to be surprisingly similar). But then, I couldn’t escape the buzzing news about the great Star Wars woman. Here’s what:

Carrie Fisher, Then and Now
Carrie Fisher, Then and Now

On Tuesday, January 29th, Fisher, age 59, sent a message to her 850,000 Twitter followers, asking them to stop scrutinizing and criticizing how she has aged over the past 30 years. Apparently there had been a relentless stream of unkind and insulting comments.

Oh. My. God.
Oh. My. God.

To those haters she shockingly said that they could “blow us”. (!!!)
(“Us” means Fisher, her body, and her character Leia)

“Please stop debating about whether or not I have aged well. Unfortunately it hurts all 3 of my feelings. My body hasn’t aged as well as I have. Blow us.”
[Twitter text abbreviations and jargon have been translated, but that was her message.]

Then Fisher re-tweeted statements from supporters who claimed that her co-stars, Harrison Ford – age 73 and Mark Hamill – age 64, do not face the same level of scrutiny. In another tweet, Fisher shared her sentiments that “youth and beauty are not accomplishments, they’re the temporary happy.”

Okay, my first thought was: That’s a Twitter Win for Carrie. Good for her.

But, my second thought was: Eegads. I remembered (and here I confess) that the first words out of my mouth when I left the theater were about Carrie Fisher’s body. (Am I a hater, like those others?!*) I commented that the film almost never showed her full body. As I recall (and I could be wrong, because honestly, the movie did not hold my close attention), it seemed to me that she was always in close-up – just her head. And at one point they (awkwardly, I thought) cut to a close-up of her hand. The few times that we did see her body were in distant wide-shots. So, I concluded, they must have used a body double for Fisher – someone thinner, and then only used her for head-shots, and hand-shots.

Carrie Fisher Before She Lost Some Weight
Carrie Fisher Before She Lost Some Weight

I noticed this because I had recently seen Fisher do the talk-show circuit and had observed that she had become a large woman (which is perfectly understandable; she is no spring chicken anymore). I hear tell that Fisher lost weight for the film and then unfortunately gained it back before her publicity tour. Hmm…even if true…Obviously, her starlet days are behind her (it’s been 38 years!). I was just wondering about why they chose not to show her true body in the movie – why they made her look thinner than she really is, or was. Are Star Wars royalty not allowed to gain weight?

I did also make the somewhat snarky comment that Carrie obviously “had a lot of work done” and it doesn’t look real. She’s so smart; I thought she would be wiser than to go that route. And so I judged that Carrie Fisher is vain and definitely looks worse for wear. And Disney is shallow (duh) and doesn’t want fat heroines. The company probably only cares about profit (as Lucas later accused). That was my brilliant sidewalk analysis.

I could think of nothing to say about the movie itself because… it’s not my thing. However, I personally have repeatedly gained and lost (and lost and gained) weight throughout my many years, and now I am almost as old as Carrie Fisher, and I have indeed considered the possibility of plastic surgery. I have nothing against it in principle. I just worry that it usually doesn’t look good and ends up making the person look older. My point is this: The Empire and/or The Alliance mean nothing to me. And the thing I could most relate to in the film was how Carrie Fisher (and I) have aged. (Am I her in this story?*)

Carrie Fisher Has Had "Work Done"
Carrie Fisher Has Had “Work Done”

A few days later, Kyle Smith, some nasty troll from the New York Post, responded to what he called Fisher’s “Twittantrum” (Twitter-tantrum) with a message to Carrie that she should “quit acting” if she isn’t prepared to put up with her looks being judged. And he wrote:

“Fisher is a public figure. If she didn’t want the public to talk about her, she could have spent the last 40 years teaching kindergarten. As for whether it’s ‘messed up’ for Hollywood to prefer pretty people to appear in its films, Fisher made millions off being pretty. Far from being bitter about this, she and other actresses who profited nicely from their looks should be grateful they had a turn at the top.”


Ouch. That’s hard-core. (But doesn’t the part about “if you get rich off your work, you are fair game for unfairness” sound a bit like what I thought about George Lucas? Is this unfairness exclusively allocated to women?)

Carrie did not back down. She then tweeted:

“Ok, I quit acting. NOW, can I not like being judged for my looks? Tell me what to do & who to be, oh wise New York post columnist, you GENIUS.”

Ha! Carrie wins again!

She won because she has gotten smarter and funnier as she has aged (due to her years of experience), so she out-wits the brat reporter, and she out-earns him too. In the contest between brains and beauty, I always prefer brains. Although, clearly, Disney always prefers beauty. And also Hollywood at large. Does Carrie’s winning against the troll and even Disney mean that she will be spared hurt feelings? Alas, that responsibility is hers. I am sorry to drag out the hackneyed advice, but dear Carrie Fisher: “Other people can only hurt your feelings if you let them.”

Carrie Fisher, Young and Old
Carrie Fisher, Young and Old

You did have your turn at the beautiful top (and you rocked it – with Rolling Stone), and then you also went on to be a writer and a true creative talent. And in your old, unattractive age, you actually got paid an awful lot more to appear in Star Wars than you did when you were young and beautiful, didn’t you? If you will only click your heels three times, you will see that you had already won, before this twitter war started.

Helen Highly suggests that you quit your twitter account (rather than acting) and stop listening to the peons, and then continue with whatever career you choose.

Note: I am sure that if a full media search were conducted, it would be proven true that more people were more quick to comment about Fisher’s age and looks than they were her co-stars’. However, Helen Highly asserts that the second thing out of her mouth upon leaving the Star Wars movie was an unflattering comment about the appearance of Mark Hamill and his bad facelift. (C’mon.) And then, soon after, Helen also Highly analyzed the dilapidated appearance and infamous personal life of Harrison Ford (who, over his many years, has been gossiped about at least as often as he has been praised).

Is it true that ageism and sexism continue to exist in Hollywood as well as throughout the worlds of business and romance? Yes. Is it true that some inferior people will take every opportunity to say something nasty about those better? (sigh) Yes. And will those problems be corrected during Carrie Fisher’s lifetime? No. For Carrie to escape the unfair cruelties of this world, she would have to get on a spaceship and find another galaxy, far, far away.

"Star Wars" Galaxy
Star Wars Galaxy

*Footnote: Am I that guy? Am I a hater? Am I Carrie Fisher? Well, as they say, you are actually everybody in your dream.

Carrie Fisher died unexpectedly 12/27/2016, and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, died one day later. Read my combo obit and film review of their recent documentary, “Bright Lights: Fat Ghost Lying in the Sun.”

Click for News: George Lucas Says Disney White Slavers to Charlie Rose.

Click for News: George Lucas Disney Apology for White Slavers Comment.