Cinema Sutra: Forgetting Sarah Marshall

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The movie: Forgetting Sarah Marshall was the 2008 Judd Apatow offering in which a broken-hearted dude (Jason Segel) flees to Hawaii to try and stop thinking about the woman who dumped him (Kristen Bell). While there, he of course runs into her — and her studly rocker boyfriend (Russell Brand) — who end up bedding down in the hotel room next door.

The scene: Segel’s character has the good fortune of having the front-desk receptionist (Mila Kunis) take pity on him, both emotionally and coitally. And since Segel’s room is adjacent to Bell and Brand’s, when our hero starts going at it on one side of the wall, the ex hears it on the other. Not wanting to be outdone, she jumps on top of her beau, leading to both gals engaging in a fake-orgasmic one-upswomanship.

What you need:
• A willing lover (Bell’s man eventually throws in the towel)
• The right (or wrong) set of ears on the other side of the wall

The mechanics: Letting people know you’re having sex is all about two factors: the noises you can make yourself, and whatever degree you can rattle, bang, skid, or thud the bed — or whatever other apparatus you’re boinking on. In Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the women use their own pipes but ignore most of the atmospheric possibilities — a classic mistake, considering how apparently easily one can Meg Ryan the female “response.” If you want to win your sex war, here’s how to do it:

• If your adversary is on the other side of a wall, place the headboard four to six inches away from the wall, then have sex in missionary with the man making EXTRA big thrusts forward and backward, causing the bed to slam into the wall with each stroke. Big noise — and a very clear source.

• If your adversary is a floor below you, put the bed in the middle of the room and again do the missionary/big-thrust thing. This will get the bed scraping and creaking around the room, and your competitors below will have no trouble hearing it through their ceiling.

• In any case, it’s important in a sex war that you outlast the other couple, so make sure the guy doesn’t get too into the thrusts. Or, if he does lose it, make sure he does so quietly, so you can keep faking it after he’s done. Remember, this isn’t about pleasure, it’s about winning!

Lesson we learn: Sure, having a sex war isn’t very mature — and it’s likely to ruin whatever romance the moment could have — but sometimes you just have to do it. (I once lived in one of eight tiny apartments on the top floor of a building in Paris, where everyone could hear what everyone else was doing. The day all the ribs of my single bed cracked at once, sending me and my girlfriend crashing to the parquet, was one of the proudest of my life.)

On the flip side, if you’re making all that noise but not trying to outdo anyone, it’s probably time to tighten the bolts of your bed frame and consider whether you really have to be that vocal in your pleasure. I like it when the cooing morning doves outside my window sound a little like a couple having sex; when it’s strangers I don’t know and I can’t tell if he’s fucking or dismembering her, that’s not so good.

So save the sex war for when it’s appropriate. And remember, let the bed do the wailing for you. A good, forceful, against-the-wall tattoo is a lot more believable than any amount of “Yeah, baby! Yeah, baby!” You’ll have them jealous of your bedroom Olympics in no time.

Click here to read — and learn — more in Nerve’s Hollywood Sex Scene Database.