“Turn Me On, Dammit!” (2011), a surprisingly quiet, rural teen sex comedy

5 May 2012

If you had grown up in a rural town in the 1980s like I did, you’d have found teen sex comedies to be a rich fantasy world. Molly Ringwald, John Cusack, Winona Ryder … their characters were all cuter, funnier, and more apt to experience wacky hijinks in those  suburban locales than anything us rural kids could imagine. It helped us fantasize that high school life could be a lot more exciting than it was. The only thing we had in common was that those movie characters all seemed to find their high schools boring, too. It was reassuring

This background gave me a special appreciation for Jannicke Systad Jacobsen’s characters in her début narrative feature Turn Me On, Dammit! (Få meg på, for faen; she has previously made documentaries). At least in my town one or two of us had cars, so we could drive around. 15-yr-old Alma (Helene Bergsholm, looking a bit wicked in the photo above) and her friends, in contrast, are limited to the bus. Her mother works at the turnip factory. Otherwise, the boredom, limited boyfriend material, and stultified circles of girls … yup.

Crucial detail: Alma is horny. Really horny.

Most teen sex comedies mess around with the sex/love spectrum. Alma alone covers all those octaves, with special skill for sheer hormones. She dials the phone sex service Wild Wet Dreams on such a regular basis, racking up such a phone bill, that her favorite telephone operator there calls her with a monthly free bonus call. She’s willing to fantasize about virtually anyone, including one of her friend’s fathers. But mostly she fantasizes about her neighbor Artur (Matias Myren), daydreams more tender and romantic than her usual fare.

So imagine Alma’s delight when they attend one of those dismal dances at the youth center and, in a private moment, Artur takes his woody out of his pants and pokes her leg with it. “Artur poked me with his dick,” she announces excitedly to her friends Saralou and Ingrid when they’re back inside. Artur denies it, and soon the entire school shuns her as Pikke-Alma (Dick-Alma).

What all of this amounts to is a very different kind of teen sex comedy. Rather than wacky and exaggerated like the 1980s genre I know so well, it’s quiet and subdued. The subject that motivates the film is the simple fact of Alma’s horniness, but that fact never amounts to a real problem (except that it places a wall between her and her mother). If you get right down to it, I think the film’s real problem is the sense that rural kids feel confined and restricted by their isolated locale.

The film quietly contrasts Alma’s horniness with her poker-faced friend Saralou, who fears getting trapped in their awful tiny town by a baby or a husband. Instead (somewhat delightfully) Saralou wants to go to Texas to fight the death penalty . There’s also the usual glimpse of a world beyond: a friend’s older sister, Maria, who’s so happy at college in Oslo that she cuts short all her visits home.

Perhaps you can intuit from this that the stakes are low in Turn Me On, Dammit! but that doesn’t mean you won’t find it disarming and sweet. Even after all those years I still find teenagers mooning over one another to be a worthy object of my gaze for 90 minutes — and Systad Jacobsen’s characters are more sweet and believable than most. Especially when, on the bus home, they pass the road sign announcing that they’re entering their little nowhere town — at which point each of the teenagers flips it off. No wonder Alma goes home and dials up Wild Wet Dreams; isn’t masturbating, after all, the very best possible solution to rural boredom?

3 Responses to ““Turn Me On, Dammit!” (2011), a surprisingly quiet, rural teen sex comedy”

  1. JE Says:

    A couple months ago one of my high school friends on facebook said she was looking forward to an upcoming visit to our hometown, saying she was homesick. It was one of those “Really!?! with Seth and Amy” moments for me.

    • Didion Says:

      I’ve seen exactly that kind of FB update. And I’m so with you on the “Really!?!”

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