Turn Me On, Dammit! (Jannicke Systad Jacobsen, 2011)

Turn Me On, Dammit! establishes its setting with the utmost diligence as a means of understanding why exactly the people are the way they are. In a tiny town in Norway, a high school girl named Alma (Helene Bergsholm) fantasizes about Artur (Matias Myren). He’ll sweep her off her feet, gently love her, and they’ll explore each other’s sexual fantasies in a sort of Twilight escapade. Back to reality: Alma is simply a horny teenager who lives in a town populated by just as many sheep as there are people. The spatial setting is integral in simply putting the audience in the perspective of its characters. It’s a dull place where the sexual tension between teenagers is enough to keep things interesting.

Turn Me On, Dammit! manages to balance just the right amount of crassness and sincerity within its high school context; it’s a bit more effective than the similar film, Miguel Arteta’s Youth in Revolt, as it has a better understanding of its setting and blends its fantasy-driven elements more effectively. Turn Me On, Dammit!’s central conflict stems out of a sexual misunderstanding involving exposure that could not have been more hilarious. But the film is less concerned with exploiting the people on-screen, and instead uses their sexual miscalculations as a springboard for a genuinely touching and funny film. Alma’s sexual eccentricities, which include calling into a sex hotline, masturbating on a roll of quarters and fulfilling a lesbian urge, are portrayed with a steady wit and sincerity.

Winner of Best Screenplay at the Tribeca Film Festival (with a jury that included David Gordon Green), Turn Me On, Dammit! is simple in its conceit, simple in how it’s constructed, yet remarkably complex as a whole. Director Jannicke Jacobsen positions her character in such a way to make them all necessary to the larger narrative focus while never becoming overbearing.  Like the Dardenne’s The Kid with the Bike, Jacobsen’s film is less concerned with grandiose or overarching thematic elements; she’s telling a simple story and does so in a concise and straightforward way. There aren’t any frills, but in that, there’s attention to detail and sharp character development. Jacobsen is truly attuned to the idiosyncrasies of  a teenager’s sexual awakening and has a firm grasp of her characters and situations. It’s a rarity for this type of film to be made, particularly one with as much insight and good humor as Turn Me On, Dammit!.

Rating: 8/10