Film Review: Turn Me On, Dammit!

Quirky Norwegian teen comedy makes something out of (nearly) nothing.

It’s no easy task to make a compelling movie about a small-town Norwegian girl and her chronic masturbation problems, but writer-director Jannicke Systad Jacobsen manages to do just that with her aptly titled debut feature, Turn Me On, Dammit!. Winner of the screenplay award at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival, this deadpan teen dramedy features a fine lead performance from newcomer Helene Bergsholm, and despite its low-budget production values, has its heart—and hand—in the right place.

Based on a novel by Olaug Nilssen, the film is set in the remote mountain village of Skoddenheim, whose population (per onscreen appearances) seems to be about 12. The shy and gorgeous Alma (Bergsholm) is one of a few teen townies trying to get whatever kicks they can out of the place, which provides them with an adequate supply of beer and hash, but not much else.

In Alma’s case, such kicks consist of pleasuring herself while fantasizing about handsome young neighbor Artur (Matias Myren), as well as about anyone else who crosses her path, including a phone-sex operator and her boss at the nearby supermarket (where she makes special use of a roll of coins from the cash register). Yet when Alma has an extremely awkward sexual run-in with Artur during a party, the event winds up turning her into the town outcast, kicking off an adolescent rebellion that won’t stop until the truth comes out.

With a straight-faced comic sensibility that recalls the work of fellow Nordic filmmaker Aki Kaurismaki, Jacobsen manages to mine both humor and tenderness out of situations, which would be excruciating for any teenager, wherever they live. And while all of Skoddenheim seems worried that “there’s something abnormal about Alma,” it’s clear she’s experiencing the same growing pains as her peers but is just more honest about them, more in touch with them, than they are.

Although it’s well-observed and acted, Turn Me On is not without the usual tics present in many an indie debut, including witty voiceovers, constant pop music, quirky photomontages and other such winks at the camera. These, along with shaky HD cinematography, take some of the pleasure away from what’s otherwise a heartwarming, occasionally hilarious portrayal of one girl’s quest for satisfaction.
The Hollywood Reporter