Turn Me On, Dammit! (2011) New Yorker Films/Comedy RT: 76 minutes No MPAA Rating (profanity, brief nudity, strong sexual content, alcohol and drug abuse ..... all involving teens) Director: Jannicke Systad Jacobsen Screenplay: Jannicke Systad Jacobsen Music: Ginge Anvik Cinematography: Marianne Bakke Release date: April 27, 2012 (Philadelphia, PA) Starring: Helene Bergsholm, Malin Bjorhovde, Henriette Steenstrup, Beate Stofring, Matias Myren, Lars Nordveit Listau, Jon Bleiklie Devik, Julia Bache-Wiig, Julia Elise Schacht, Arthur Berning, Hilde-Gunn Ommedal. Spoken in Norwegian w/English subtitles
Having seen thousands of movies, I'm not easily shocked anymore, I've seen it all, or at least I thought I did. I couldn't believe what was happening on screen in the Norwegian import Turn Me On, Dammit!. The movie opens with a 15-year-old girl masturbating on her kitchen floor as a phone-sex operator talks dirty to her. Granted, this movie isn't as sexually explicit as Romance, Irreversible or The Brown Bunny, but the mere fact the all of the sexual activity involves minors makes the viewer stand up and take notice. Aside from the unusually racy material, Turn Me On, Dammit! is a coming-of-age comedy about a sexually frustrated teenage girl living in the small Norwegian town of Skoddeheimen. It's one of those boring little towns without a movie theater or shopping mall, the teens have nothing much to do when they're not in school, nothing aside from getting drunk at parties at the local recreation center. Alma (Bergsholm) spends a lot of time engaging in sexual fantasies and self-gratification, these are her only outlets for her enormous sex drive. She has a crush on Artur (Myren), a local boy who plays guitar for the church choir. One night, Alma and her two BFFs, sisters Ingrid (Stofring) and Saralou (Bjorhovde), attend a party at the aforementioned teen rec center. Alma steps outside for a moment and Artur follows her. He proceeds to take out his penis and poke her in the thigh. When she tells her BFFs about this encounter, Artur denies it and Ingrid spreads the word around school that Alma is a liar and a head case. She becomes a complete social pariah, she may as well have a big scarlet letter tattooed on her forehead.
Alma doesn't find much comfort at home from her sinlge mother (Steenstrup) who has no idea why her daughter has been behaving so strangely lately. Between the exorbitant phone bill (all those phone-sex charges!) and Alma getting fired from her job at a local store for stealing a pornographic magazine, not to mention the very audible sounds of Alma masturbating in her bedroom every night, she's at a complete loss. Meanwhile, Alma has to put up with Ingrid's crap every day at school and it's getting to be too much for the girl to handle. She even starts acting out at school, telling one teacher to "f--k off". Turn Me On, Dammit! plays like a hard R-rated John Hughes comedy/drama about the horrors and misery of high school, although I highly doubt that the late filmmaker would ever have placed such an emphasis on masturbation and sexual activity. Writer/director Jacobsen's observation of this teenager-inhabited microcosm stands as proof that teenagers can be really mean no matter what part of the world they live in. Ingrid, always with her tube of lip gloss at the ready, is as much a "mean girl" as any girl from Beverly Hills.
One of the most interesting characters in Turn Me On, Dammit! is Saralou, the only one who will still associate with Alma, but only at the town bus stop (apparently a popular hangout), never at school where Ingrid will surely spot them together. Saralou spends her free time writing to death row inmates in the US, she dreams of going to Texas and single-handedly getting them to abolish the death penalty. Good luck with that! She gets romantically involved with Kjartan (Listau), a stoner classmate who deals drugs and writes poetry. As Alma, first time actress Helene Bergsholm turns in an excellent performance. Looking like a cross between Scarlett Johansson and Taylor Swift, Bergsholm commands the screen in a way not yet achieved by many young actors. Alma wants to get out of Skoddeheimen someday, she's had it with this dull place and she shows this disdain by holding out her middle finger every time the town bus passes the city limits sign. She's a natural performer and one can only hope that her subsequent films will find their way to American movie theaters. Malin Bjorhovde also turns in an incredible performance as the open-minded Saralou who's starting to realize that her big sister doesn't know as much as she thinks she does. Turn Me On, Dammit boasts some great cinematography that perfectly depicts the soul-crushing bleakness of this small town, this is especially evident in the scenes set in the convenience store where Alma briefly works, it looks just as dismal as any 7-11 in the US. The movie has its share of humorous aspects, especially the running gag about Alma's nosy neighbor (Ommedal), the Norwegian version of Gladys Kravitz, the punchline to this bit is priceless. It's a good albeit somewhat frivolous little movie that explores the double standard when it comes to sexual activity and women, although it doesn't explore this in any great depth. Still, it's an engaging little movie that's not as sleazy (or as prurient) as it sounds.