When we first meet Alma (Helene Bergsholm), the 15-year-old heroine of Turn Me On, Dammit!, she’s masturbating on her kitchen floor with the help of a phone-sex operator. In an American Pie movie, the character would have been Jason Biggs in his bedroom, with the help of the Internet (or some baked goods). But because Alma is a girl, and she seems to be enjoying herself so much, the scene seems a bit … outré. The entire movie is like that — cheerfully scandalous and daring, without ever being truly explicit or graphic.
Instead of shock value, writer-director Jannicke Systad Jacobsen is going for truth and humor and frankness about the uncontrollable urgency of adolescent hormones. Her characters just happen to be girls. There is Alma, who fantasizes about her handsome classmate Artur (Matias Myren) sneaking into her bedroom and taking her virginity. There is Alma’s friend Sara (Malin Bjorhovde), who writes love letters to inmates and longs of getting out of their small, suffocating town. There is Sara’s older sister Ingrid (Beate Stofring), a preening mean girl who spreads a rumor about Alma that make her an outcast of Hester Prynne proportions.
Turn Me On, Dammit! is based on a popular Norwegian novel, and it acts as a cheerfully blunt corrective to the dreamy, infantile fantasies of the Twilight novels, in which sexual urges are something that can be controlled and compromised and stored away on a shelf for future use. The movie is slight (only 76 minutes) and not entirely original, but there’s something wonderfully fresh — almost subversive, really — about a film in which teenage girls speak about sex and obsess over it and crave it as openly as boys. In time-honored John Hughes manner, the movie ends on a happy, reassuring note. But for a genre dominated by American movies in which girls are usually prizes or objects of lust, Turn Me On, Dammit! practically feels revolutionary.
Cast: Helene Bergsholm, Malin Bjorhovde, Beate Stofring, Matias Myren, Henriette Steenstrup.
Writer-director: Jannicke Systad Jacobsen. Based on the novel by Olaug Nilssen.
Producer: Brede Hovland.
A New Yorker Films release. Running time: 76 minutes. In Norwegian with English subtitles. Vulgar language, nudity, sexual situations, adult themes. Opens Friday May 25 in Miami-Dade only: Coral Gables Art Cinema.