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Turn Me On, Goddammit

Female adolescent eroticism rarely gets explored at this affectionately candid level.

With:
With: Helene Bergsholm, Malin Bjoerhovde, Beate Stoefring, Matias Myren, Henriette Steenstrup. (Norwegian dialogue)

For all its sexy, sardonic, Scandinavian sweetness, “Turn Me On, Goddammit” will likely find the most favor for its frank portrayal of adolescent eroticism, female division, which seldom gets portrayed onscreen at all, much less at the affectionately candid level explored by this mostly femme-powered production. More crowd-pleasing than sober arthouse fare like Catherine Breillat’s “Fat Girl,” this comedy could touch a chord among teens, particularly girls, who will find the film’s central character, Alma (Helen Bergsholm), a sympathetically hormonal heroine. Wide fest play seems assured.

Pic is set in a less-than-vibrant burg of western Norway that everyone seems to hate; Alma and her pal Sara (Malin Bjoerhovde) ritually flip off the sign that bears its name, Skoddeheimen, each time their school bus passes it. Its unusual setting aside, “Turn Me On, Goddammit” concerns itself with a number of the usual teen-movie tropes, including the loyalty of best friends, the cruelty of adolescence and the torture inflicted on the young by their parents. The paramount issue, however, is Alma’s burgeoning lust: Her mother (Henriette Steenstrup) nearly catches her masturbating on the kitchen floor (the one witness, Alma’s dog, is hilarious); Mom nearly chokes when she gets the bill for the phone-sex line Alma calls, frequently enough that they know her by name.

Helmer Jannicke Systad Jacobsen interweaves Alma’s fantasies, which involve just about anyone, with her day-to-day routine around the curiously named Skoddeheimen and her floundering flirtations with a Joseph Gordon-Levitt look-alike named Artur (Matias Myren). In fact, the border between Alma’s real and unreal is so porous that when the crucial act occurs, we’re not entirely sure she isn’t on one of her trips to La-La-heimen.

Alma’s big mistake is mentioning what Artur did at a party; he denies it, and Sara’s lip gloss-addicted sister, Ingrid (Beate Stoefring), who likes Artur, too, begins a smear campaign against the by-now-adorable Alma. Ostracized and horny, the girl’s social fate seems sealed. Even her last remaining friend, Sara, who writes letters to death-row inmates in Texas, is giving Alma a wide berth.

Shot in a very straightforward and somehow ironic fashion by d.p. Marianne Bakke, “Turn Me On, Goddammit” has a cool palette and a deceptively rustic tone that tempers the hot-blooded undercurrent running through the story. For all its frustrated ardor, the film is actually quite lovely as well as honest, treating its young characters with the kind of respect to which Hollywood teen movies seem severely allergic. Deft use of songs, notably by Kings of Convenience and Franz Is Dead, enhances the film’s emotional impact.

Turn Me On, Goddammit

Norway

Production: A Motlys presentation. Produced by Brede Hovland, Sigve Endresen. Co-producer, Frida Ohrvik. Directed, written by Jannicke Systad Jacobsen, based on a novel by Olaug Nilssen.

Crew: Camera (color), Marianne Bakke; editor, Zaklina Stojcevska; music, Ginge Anvik; art director, Sunniva Rostad; costume designer, Sabina Cavenius; sound (Dolby Digital), Hugo Ekornes; casting, Ellen Michelsen. Reviewed at Tribeca Film Center, New York, April 25, 2012. (In Tribeca Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 76 MIN.

With: With: Helene Bergsholm, Malin Bjoerhovde, Beate Stoefring, Matias Myren, Henriette Steenstrup. (Norwegian dialogue)

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