For girl, it’s not easy being teen
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, June 1, 2012
Alma has a problem. In the words of Alma’s mother, the teenage girl is “abnormal,” judging by the amount of time she spends playing with herself, looking at dirty magazines and fantasizing about sex.
In other words, she’s a 15-year-old girl with the sex drive of a normal 15-year-old boy.
Fresh-faced actress Helene Bergsholm makes an auspicious debut as the exceptional -- although certainly not abnormal -- heroine of “Turn Me On, Dammit!” Also making her auspicious debut of sorts is the writer-director, Norwegian documentarian Jannicke Systad Jacobsen, making the move to dramatic comedy with this wry if saucily subversive charmer, based on a novel by Olaug Nilssen.
“Turn Me On, Dammit!” isn’t always laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s fresh and honest enough to leave a smile on your face that doesn’t easily fade.
Set in Skoddeheimen -- a place so boring that teens on the school bus feel compelled to give the finger to a sign printed with its name -- the movie opens with a scene designed to shock: Alma on the kitchen floor of the house she shares with her single mother (Henriette Steenstrup), pleasuring herself to the accompaniment of a patient phone-sex operator named Stig (Per Kjerstad). Although we never see Stig, he’s apparently good at his job. He also provides a kind of talk therapy for Alma, who doesn’t have a lot of people with whom to share her fantasies, most of which revolve around a cute classmate named Artur (Matias Myren).
Alma’s best friend, Sara (Malin Bjorhovde), doesn’t understand her. Unlike Alma, Sara has never been in love, but she harbors fantasies of her own about escaping Skoddeheimen for Texas, where she hopes to fight capital punishment.
Anyone can dream, right?
The character of Sara is a heavily eye-lined, Goth delight -- one of several richly shaded adolescent roles. They’re people, not types.
When Artur makes a crude physical pass at Alma at a party -- and when Alma makes the mistake of telling Sara’s sister (Beate Stofring), who also likes Artur -- our heroine is the one who’s ostracized, as a tramp.
Although there are points of similarity with the 2010 Hollywood comedy “Easy A,” which also addressed the themes of female sexuality and reputation, nothing about “Turn Me On, Dammit!” feels formulaic or familiar. Its adolescent characters may be a little wild and scary -- but not for the same reason that American movie teenagers are. While our high school comedies tend to treat teenagers as miniature grown-ups with half the body fat and twice the attitude, “Turn Me On, Dammit!” recognizes that they’re not quite children, not quite adults, but something in between.
The movie’s world of hormones and hurt feelings is painfully real, yet just as often uncomfortably funny. The film remembers that it’s normal to feel abnormal. “Turn Me On, Dammit!” is no documentary, but the people in it are all too recognizable.
Contains nudity, crude language, smoking, underage drinking and sexual scenes and dialogue. In Norwegian with English subtitles.