Monday, March 26, 2012

Jannicke Systad Jacobson's TURN ME ON, DAMMIT! Teen-age love 'n lust in Norway

Have raging hormones ever been portrayed quite as delightfully as in TURN ME ON, DAMMIT!, the new, Norwegian, not-quite-coming-of-age movie from a relatively new filmmaker -- Jannicke Systad Jacobson -- who should, if she lives up to the promise of this quirky little wonder, be around for a long time to come. Several things make this film special, and the first is that it gives us an up-close-and-personal look at exactly how those hormones rage in the mind and spirit of a 15-year-old girl. We just don't see this that often -- in America it is almost always the guys who get to show us the hormone ropes -- but how much more unusual (and fun!) is it to see this from the female perspective.

Ms Jacobson, shown, left, doesn't ignore the guys. In fact, she offers a believable & smart, if slightly stand-offish, look at two of her leading character's classmates: Artur, the hunk-in-training for whom she's got the hots (played by a very appealing Matias Myren, below, right) and a beyond-quirky but char-ming (if you hold your nose) outsider named Kjartan (Lars Nordtveit Listau, two photos below). Our horny heroine, Alma (yes, that means "heart") is given amazing grace, beauty and a fine sense of goofiness by Helene Bergsholmbelow, left.

All three kids are first-time actors, by the way, as are, I suspect, most of the younger cast. The older kids and the adults are played by professionals, and the filmmaker handles both her newcomers and her pros with the same easy grace so that their connections to each other are genuine and their performances truthful and funny, straight across the board.

Among the other "special" things about the film, I would rank high its unique combination of honesty concerning the sexual fantasies and needs of adolescent girls (and boys) -- it certainly tells it like it is -- and the out-and-out charm and often sweetness with which these kids struggle to reach some kind of fulfilling sexual goal. The tone here is always on the mark, no matter how bizarre (sometimes nearly gross) are the machinations of our Miss Alma.

The difficulties that the older generation has with the younger's appetites are delightfully shown, as well  (Henriette Steenstrup makes a wonderfully confused but in-there-trying mother to Alma), while the macho -- or whatever word the Scandinavians use for this -- posturings of the young males make a funny/sad counterpoint to the richer fantasy life of the females, cleverly pointing up how different seem to be the needs of the two sexes.

The wonderful screenplay, also by Ms. Jacobson (from the novel by Olaug Nilssen), makes some drop-dead funny use of the phrase dick-Alma, a new moniker with which our heroine is christened via her response to Artur's sudden, oh-so-male romantic gesture. Dick-Alma follows her along, coming to true fruition in a song composed on the spot by a smart, helpful older fellow who knows how to turn a turd into taffy.

There is so much that's wonderful about this film -- including an understated, feel-good climax that works perfectly -- that I refuse to over-praise it (what -- I already have?). It's short (75 minutes) and sweet and, by certain American standards, dirty (the phone sex scene at the beginning; Artur's very present and visible cock). And yet it is truthful, and dear and real, the kind of film I'd have taken my daughter -- hell, her entire class -- to see in her own adolescent days/daze.

Turn Me On, Dammit!, from New Yorker Films, opens this Friday, March 30, in New York City at the Angelika Film Center and The Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center. Look for it to open mid-April in the Los Angeles area at The Landmark and various Laemmle theaters. To learn all the currently scheduled playdates, click here and then click on the IN THEATERS link on the bar just below the visuals for the film.

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