Lisa Cholodenko’s three films High Art (US, 1998), Laurel Canyon (US, 2002), and The Kids Are All Right (US, 2010) all tell the same story: a sexual and emotional ingenue arrives in a tightly circumscribed social world that both resembles and departs from a conventional family. At its heart is an established couple whose seemingly secure erotic bond is marked by deep ambivalence. This bond is stretched beyond recognition as it bends to the presence of the sexual outsider, who is first incorporated into, then ejected from, the pseudofamilial world. Though irreparably altered, the established couple survives—and may even be strengthened by—the sexual, spatial, and professional infidelity that forms the central plot of the film. No longer disavowed, the ambivalence that has marked the couple’s formation from the outset is now under-stood to be fundamental to their ongoing attachment. Whether the relationships are straight, gay, or bisexual; maternal, paternal, or filial; motivated, situational, or opportunistic; whether the worlds they inhabit are those of art photography, popular music, or medicine; whether their compulsions are addictive, obsessive, or narcissistic; the common story is basically the same, as is the lesson that attends it: attachment is always ambivalent. That is part of its satisfaction. End of story. Or, begin again. This article invokes Stanley Cavell’s classic account of the Hollywood comedy of remarriage in order to place Cholodenko’s trilogy within a wider popular conversation about attachment and ambivalence in the era of marriage equality.
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Lee Wallace; Three by Three: Lisa Cholodenko’s Attachment Trilogy. Camera Obscura 1 December 2019; 34 (3): 97–125. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-7772399
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