Sunday, May 01, 2011

Tribeca ’11: Turn Me On, Goddammit

Has this been the naughtiest Tribeca Film Festival ever? In addition to Pinku Eiga, a short smut doc, and Spanish sex-trafficking hipster-noir, there have been two Scandinavian films about sexually precocious young girls. Oddly enough, they both won awards at the festival. At least, the good one is not at all creepy. Granted, there is no getting around Alma’s horniness, but as a teenager, that is how she is sort of supposed to be. Unfortunately, she earns quite a reputation for it in writer-director Jannicke Systad Jacobsen’s pretty darn directly titled Turn Me On, Goddammit (trailer here), which screens again today as the best narrative screenplay award winner at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival.

Alma is very interested in the blandly attractive Artur, as are a number of girls in Skoddeheimen, her stiflingly dull provincial town. Unfortunately, when she impulsively mentions his clumsy bit of show-and-tell at a party, he publically repudiates her. Suddenly, she is shunned by her classmates as an allegedly sexually-obsessed horndog with difficulty distinguishing between reality and her overactive fantasy life, which is largely true, but completely unfair. The only person who understands her is the soothing voice at her favorite sex line, but when the phone bill arrives her Calvinist mother insists she get a job to pay for it. When that predictably leads to more awkwardness, Alma starts yearning for life in the big city, as well as the other stuff.

Just to review, Alma, a cute blonde, is ostracized in high school for her raging lust. Okay, fine whatever, but those Norwegians sure are weird cats. Be that as it may, Turn is indeed a mostly charming little film. Helen Bergsholm has a winning screen presence and a flair for outrageous comedic situations. Likewise, Malin Bjørhovde comes across realistically grounded as Alma’s last friend Sara, a frustrated activist, who wants to write to American convicts on death row, but seems a little hesitant about letting them have her address.

It is important to note this story of high school sexual angst was directed by a woman, because it shows a bit more than you might expect (though little outright nudity). Still, Jacobsen handles the potentially prurient material with a light touch, so the film never feels smarmy (except maybe in retrospect). She is particularly deft at blurring Alma’s fantasies into reality, often catching the audience off-balance as a result. Though a worthy film, it is somewhat strange Turn would win an award for screenplay, because despite the film’s energy and fresh characterizations, there is never really any doubt where it is heading.

Regardless, Turn is a gently entertaining film with real breakout commercial potential. It is one of several standouts at this year’s Tribeca, which has at times been unexpectedly tricky to write about for a family outlet. The winner of the 2011 Best Screenplay—Narrative Award, it screens again this afternoon and evening as the Tribeca Film Festival wraps.