If you’ve ever watched The Girl With the Dragon Spite or The Girl on the Train, you’re likely aware that sexual performance anxiety is a common and debilitating condition.
In fact, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in six people experience it at some point in their life.
For many performers, it’s a life-long battle.
“It’s a struggle,” says Kristen Bell, who plays the young, talented and sexually adventurous Emily.
“You get a lot of stuff that you don’t want to deal with.
You get really stressed out.
You go through periods where you’re really, really anxious.”
The movie follows the story of a young girl named Emily, who suffers from sexual performance disorder (SPD), a mental illness that affects one in five women.
In a typical episode, Emily and her boyfriend (Ben Mendelsohn) spend a lot more time together than they actually do.
“The more time they spend together, the more intense it gets,” Bell says.
“There’s a huge difference between how we spend our time, and how the world sees us.”
For Emily, the anxiety can be excruciating.
“She’s like a sponge,” Bell explains.
“Everything has to be perfect, but you have to keep the tension up.
She’s always looking over her shoulder.”
When she finally has the chance to meet her boyfriend, Emily is shocked by the sudden change in his behavior.
“He was like, ‘Wow, I don’t know what to say,'” Bell says, her eyes narrowing.
“I said, ‘No, I’m not surprised.'”
Emily and Mendeltohn play a young couple in the movie.
(Photo: Disney) But when Emily meets a man who appears to be the “perfect man” — and who, at the end of the day, has her undying devotion — she realizes that there’s a chance the relationship is the best in the world.
Emily and the rest of her new family decide to try again, but the journey isn’t without its challenges.
“My boyfriend’s like, I never want to go home again,” Emily says.
She then realizes that her mother, grandmother and aunts are all there for her.
Emily’s new relationship also has its challenges, as she’s not in a place to truly bond with her friends, family or boyfriend.
“When you’re with somebody, you’ve got a lot to learn, a lot about yourself,” Bell notes.
“But when you’re alone, you have nothing to learn.
So it’s like going through puberty.”
That’s when Bell, Mendel and Bell’s boyfriend, Ben Mendel, embark on an adventure of their own.
Bell and Mendal are joined by a cast that includes Amy Adams, Michael Cera, Josh Hutcherson, Emily Blunt, and more.
“This movie is so much about intimacy and the relationship,” Bell adds.
“We’re all so close, but what happens when you don: when you aren’t together?”
Bell and her fellow cast members also take on the role of the “sex therapist,” a role that is both empowering and frightening for some.
Bell says that she was “really nervous” when she first auditioned for the role.
“A lot of people have been told to be scared and be alone, and I was like ‘That’s not how this movie is supposed to be,'” she says.
But Bell found that “you have to take your time to make sure that you’re okay with being alone with somebody.”
Emily’s character, Emily, also struggles with intimacy.
(Photos: Courtesy of Kristen Bell) But Bell and the cast have taken it upon themselves to help Emily navigate the boundaries of sex and sexuality, including having sex with different people and having their sexual needs met.
Bell is especially touched by Mendel’s revelation about his sexual preferences, which he says were never about her.
“Emily really struggled with this,” Bell said.
“If she ever wanted to go to a movie, she would have to do the sex act with someone else.
It would be so different.”
Bell also has an advice for anyone considering a sex career: “You can’t let sex control your life.
That’s the biggest lie.
You have to embrace your sexuality, and embrace your desires and your needs and be able to connect to your body and to yourself.”
The cast of The Girl in the Red Dress and The Girl Who Was Afraid of the Dark also plays a key role in bringing Emily to life in the big screen.
In addition to Bell and Bell herself, Mendels co-starring roles include David Schwimmer as the young and charming Emily, as well as the recently-released film version of The Good Girl Gone Bad starring Olivia Wilde and Matt Damon.
The movie also stars Ben Mendell, Olivia Wilde, and Matthew McConaughey.
(Video: Jennifer Mascia/Paramount Pictures)