Fifteen-year-old Alma just might be the horniest person in Norway. She rings up exorbitant phone sex bills when her mom, a single parent, is out of the house. And she rides rolls of coins when she gets bored working the checkout at the local supermarket — a job she had to take to help offset the costs of those phone sex bills.
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She's stuck and sex-crazed in Skoddeheimen, a tiny town where she and her cynical, cigarette-smoking best friend Sara flip the bird at every opportunity. Alma fantasizes about nearly everyone she knows, from her big-breasted choir-singing classmate Ingrid, to her dorky middle-aged boss at the market. But most of her frustrated sexual energy is directed at Artur, a handsome blue-eyed neighbor who plays guitar in the local youth group. One day he makes a rather, uh, pointed pass at her outside a party at the town clubhouse, and finally a few bars get cut away from Alma's sexual prison. But the excitement of the encounter lasts only moments before it backfires and unravels Alma's entire social life.
Turn Me On, Dammit! won the award for best screenplay at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2011, and it's not difficult to see why. Though this film from director Jannicke Systad Jacobsen follows in the crazy, randy footsteps of other adolescent sex comedies such as American Pie, it sets itself apart by focusing on the insanity of hormonal overload from the female perspective. And that's not the only unique thing about it. While it offers plenty of gentle laughs (don't expect fall-on-the-floor funny) and a number of truly mortifying moments, the writing and directing allow the audience to empathize with Alma, who seems genuinely bewildered by her enslavement to the sexual chemicals coursing through her body, rather than just laugh at her.
Turn Me On, Dammit!
Starring Helene Bergsholm, Malin Bjrhovde, and Henriette Steenstrup. Written and directed by Jannicke Systad Jacobsen. Based on a novel by Olaug Nilssen. 76 minutes. Not rated. May 25 through 31 at Coral Gables Art Cinema, 260 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables; 786-385-9689; gablescinema.com. Tickets cost $11.
The film also does a nice job of illuminating the quick and cruel ostracism that can happen in high school, especially to sexually curious girls, and the strained dynamic between mother and daughter, especially when said daughter is at the ripe yet tender age of 15. Circumscribed village life and naive teenage idealism are also subtly woven into the story through both dialogue and cinematography.
Marking another upgrade from your typical teen raunch-fest, Jacobsen's film is beautifully shot, especially during one of Alma's fantasies in which she and Artur lie on their backs in the forest to behold a sky full of interlocking treetops. And though a few scenes are initially a bit unsettling — we are, after all, watching blatantly sexual actions performed by underage characters — viewers should be relieved to know that the performers are in fact 20 years old. No child exploitation necessary.