New Yorker Films // 2011 // 76 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // November 15th, 2012
"They call me Dick-Alma."
Norwegian coming-of-age comedy drama Turn Me On, Dammit! is almost the very definition of a quirky indie pic. Boasting a hip soundtrack, knowingly cute dialogue, and a suitably lo-fi look, writer-director Jannicke Systad Jacobsen's movie initially presents itself as a female-centric relation of Mike Mills' Thumbsucker, that is, until it begins asking some interesting questions.
The film follows fifteen-year old Alma (Helene Bergsholm), who lives in the small Norwegian town of Skoddeheimen. Unbeknownst to any of her friends, Alma has recently become slave to her raging hormones, which have seen her lusting wistfully after the object of her affection, Artur (Matias Myren), and just about everyone else she meets. When Alma's uncontrollable urges become public knowledge, she finds herself humiliated, misunderstood, and alone.
It's a universally accepted given that the sexual urges of the average teenage boy is matched only by rabbits, so much so that society on the whole has no problem whatsoever laughing along to their sexual misadventures in everything from Porky's to American Pie. Yet when the subject of female sexual awakening is raised, people tend to feel awkward and look the other way. Fully aware of this, Jacobsen opts to tackle the issue head on by first introducing us to Alma as she is pleasuring herself on the kitchen floor whilst partaking in a particularly filthy bout of phone sex. I consider myself to be open-minded, and fairly liberal in my views, but even I was taken aback by this bold opening. Now, before going any further, I should stress that at no point is Turn Me On, Dammit! exploitative of the young female cast, so anyone looking for cheap thrills is best advised to look elsewhere. Instead, Turn Me On, Dammit! reminds us -- especially any young men who may be watching -- that young women share the same desires and needs as their male counterparts, yet are not afforded the same level of understanding, while gently reminding teenage boys that girls are not a mere plaything for them to use and abuse however they see fit.
Alma's horniness, as she herself so puts it, is the cause of much embarrassment for her mother and the reason for her pariah-like status amongst her peers. Confused and yet consumed by her sexual urges, Alma finds herself isolated with nobody to confide in. Though the film may be a comedy primarily, it never once lets the viewer mistake its lightheartedness for a lack of substance. Alma's feelings of isolation speak a universally identifiable truth that sits at the heart of Jacobsen's film. This in turn ensures the film remains grounded in reality, even during the film's frequent fantasy scenes, where Alma's imagination takes over and a seemingly innocent encounter suddenly transforms into an illicit sexual liaison.
The relationships that exist in Jacobsen's film really feel genuine. Tensions, or should that be the jealousy that arises between Alma and her friend Ingrid (Beate Stofring) when both make their play to win the heart of Artur, accurately reflect the conflicts many friends (regardless of gender) encounter when they both vie for the attention of the same person. Along with the frustrations of growing up in a small town, the film also explores the excitement, trepidation, and general awkwardness of falling in love for the first time, as is seen in a sweet subplot that focuses on Alma's best friend Sara (Malin Bjorhovde).
Helene Bergsholm, still only nineteen when filming took place, delivers a remarkable performance as Alma -- remarkable not just for its quality, but also for the bravery the young actress shows. That this is Bergsholm's first film role is almost unbelievable, surely signaling the start of a wonderful career. While still helping to maintain the film's comic tone, Bergsholm makes a real connection with the viewer, who cannot help but feel her plight. The rest of the young cast more than ably supports Bergsholm, with Malin Bjorhovde in particular standing out.
New Yorker Films' DVD release of Turn Me On, Dammit! features a serviceable 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. The picture is a touch soft, with colors often appearing a little washed out, but nothing really detrimental to the viewing experience. The 5.1 soundtrack, on the other hand, is crystal clear. Extras are limited to a handful of deleted scenes and an interview with the film's director, Jacobsen.
Clocking in at a svelte 76 minutes, Turn Me On, Dammit! never risks outstaying its welcome. Though the film's quirkiness and blunt handling of its subject matter may initially be off-putting to some, this quickly gives way to a warm, funny, honest, and ultimately thought-provoking story, while suggesting Jacobsen may well be the female (Norwegian) counterpart to John Hughes (Some Kind of Wonderful).
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Yorker Films
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Norwegian)
Running Time: 76 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated