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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Norwegian girl's fantasies go wild in 'Turn Me On, Dammit!'

HOMETOWN HONEYS: Helene Bergsholm, Malin Bjorhovde, Henriette Steenstrup of Turn Me On, Dammit!
When 15 year-old Alma (Helene Bergsholm) complains about being "horny" in the Norwegian comedy Turn Me On, Dammit!, she's not just trying to shock her mother. If anything, the word understates the 15 year-old small town girl's preoccupation with sex.

One of the film's first scenes finds Alma in the throes of vigorous phone sex on the kitchen floor. Director Jannicke Systad Jacobsen portrays Alma as having an insatiable appetite for self-pleasure, and a tendency to fantasize indiscriminately about the people around her. Cute classmate Artur (Matias Myren) usually plays the leading role in her erotic daydreams, but even her middle-aged boss and a female frenemy make guest appearances.

Jacobsen brings a blend of insight and saucy humor to Alma's awkward phase as a bored, lustful high schooler. Alma and her friends hate their small, rural town of Skoddeheimen so much, they give its road sign the finger every time they pass by. Like Dazed and Confused, Turn Me On, Dammit! captures the restlessness of underaged kids with little to do but drink ill-gotten alcohol, hang out and gossip about each other.

Alma's fortunes take a turn for the worse after a perplexing incident not unlike the time "Seinfeld's" Elaine was on a date with a guy, and noticed that "It was out." When Alma mentions the episode to her friends, and the guy in question denies it, she becomes an outcast among her classmates, who call her "Dick-Alma." Why even her nonconformist friend Sara (Malin Bjørhovde) turns against her is something of a mystery.

With large eyes and an endearingly uneven smile, Bergholm gives a sensitive portrayal of an isolated girl with few outlets for her frustrations. But for a film that so brazenly raises the topic of female sexuality, Turn Me On, Dammit! has surprisingly little follow-through. The resolution emphasizes Alma's relationships with her mother, Artur and Sara, implying that if young people can tough out the most depressing months of adolescence, their connections to other people and sexuality will eventually sort themselves out.

The final scenes of Turn Me On, Dammit! ring true while emulating the typical storylines of teen movies, as if Jacobsen steps back from her more provocative perspective on the inner life of teenage girls. The film's climax doesn't nearly measure up to its foreplay.

Turn Me On, Dammit!. 3 stars. Directed by Jannicke Systad Jacobsen. Stars Helene Bergsholm, Matias Myren. Not Rated. Opens Fri., June 1. At Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.

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