Friday, March 30, 2012

Norwegian Pie: Turn Me On, Dammit

One of the horniest films at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival took home the Best Screenplay—Narrative Award. Granted, there is no getting around Alma’s short term goals, 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, Dammit! (slightly toned down from the original “Goddammit,” trailer here), which opens today in New York.

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 inevitably 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 to be found there.

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 remaining 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 when writing about it after the fact). She is particularly deft at blurring Alma’s fantasies into reality, often catching the audience off-balance as a result. Though a winning film, it is somewhat odd Turn would win a screenplay award, because despite the film’s energy and fresh characterizations, there is never really any doubt where it is heading.

Regardless, Turn is gently entertaining with the potential to reach a wider audience than typical for limited release foreign language films. Rather sweet, but tricky to write about for a family outlet, Turn is recommended adult audiences when it opens today (3/30) in New York at the Angelika and Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Centers.