Film Review – Turn Me On, Dammit!
Turn Me On, Dammit! (2011) is a Norwegian film about 15-year-old Alma (Helene Bergsholm), who is stuck in a small town she hates. She has a mad crush on Artur (Matias Myren), a local hottie, and she is horny. She is not a pervert and doesn’t have anything wrong with her; she is just young and aroused. The honesty of that was refreshing. Too often, women are regulated to being conquests for the horny guys (as in American Pie) or just sluts. Alma uses fantasies and phone sex to deal with her desire, but those are also her ways of escaping the boredom of her life and expressing her wish fulfillment.
Artur is her main desire, and early on he is given the feel of a real teenage boy. He is obviously attracted to Alma, but is also hormonal and confused about what he wants, so when he makes an “overture” (that I won’t reveal) to Alma and she tells people what he did, Artur denies having done it out of embarrassment and risk to his social status. Ingrid (Beate Støfring), a popular girl who thinks Artur should be her boyfriend, makes it out that Alma is a liar and a pervert and turns the whole school against her. This makes Alma feel even more isolated and more prone to fantasies.
These fantasies get into what she wishes Artur would say to her or things they could do, from having sex to simply holding each other—though there are moments when any random situation or person gets her aroused, and, given her mindset, this make sense. It gets into what it is like to be that age, with hormones going nuts while also feeling trapped.
At its heart, this is a very sweet story about a girl who wants a boy, and due to circumstances (and the boy’s own stupidity), they are kept apart. This is a fairly typical movie plot, but it is made to feel new in how the film focuses on Alma and her plight. While she is full of teen angst, she never goes to a place where she is whiny. She complains, but it never feels over the top. She can balance her tantrums with her quick wit and her daydreams, and she becomes a fully rounded and very likable character. She represents what we all felt growing up: feeling trapped, be it by geography, situations, or just our own dreams not coming true.
Alma is the focal point of everything the movie sees. So when there is a variation from that point, it seems a bit muddled. This includes her friend Sara (Malin Bjørhovde), who has a boy crushing on her. Sara wants to focus on getting out of their small town to work on getting rid of the death penalty, and writes to people on death row. It is a quirky side story and actress Malin Bjørhovde makes her believable, but there isn’t enough time to get invested in her problem, and Sara’s story ends up feeling like filler.
As others interact with Alma, there are some great visuals and quick bits of dialogue to help make light of the situation so it never becomes overwhelming—no more so than when her mother (Henriette Steenstrup) discovers her daughter’s phone sex bill and starts believing that her daughter is either a degenerate or sick in some way. While there were some who seem to find this an extreme view, it makes sense within the confines of this story. Alma’s mother is single and has a very “small town” mentality. She tries to reach her daughter, but is trapped in a mindset that is hard to let go of. Even then, this is never played up as her being cruel. It actually brings up some of the more humorous moments, as Alma argues with her mom about what phone sex calls are and her mother tries to understand what is going on with her daughter (while constantly being freaked out).
These humorous moments and the angst balance very well for everyone involved in the film. Credit has to go to director and screenwriter, Jannicke Systad Jacobsen. Not only was this her first narrative feature film, she took a typical storyline and filled it with a fresh look so that it never seemed typical. She took a different look at teen sexuality and relationships and did it while also casting unknown actors in the roles of the teenagers. While you can get realism with unknown actors, to also make them sell the roles so that we believe that they can be this bitchy or stupid or horny is much harder, and Jacobsen accomplishes that.
Final Grade: A-