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Tribeca Review: 'Turn Me On, Goddammit' Satisfies

Simbarashe Simbarashe
April 25th, 2011 4:06pm EDT

Fifteen-year-old Alma has a problem. She’s cute, she has friends and a sense of humor, but she doesn’t have Artur, a boy at school she likes. To be clear, Alma spends all day romanticizing about the two of them together, walking poetically through the woods and sharing the type of silent chemistry made especially for soulmates. He makes passionate love to her. But all of this happens in her daydreams. What’s a horny fifteen-year-old to do? Though Alma (played by an exceedingly pretty Helene Bergsholm) has a sense of self-assurance, she’s not assured enough to approach Artur the way she’d like. She then spends her afternoons releasing her sexual tensions the only way she knows how: by calling a sex hotline. In fact, Alma calls so much that she has her own dedicated fantasy partner, “Steig”, and they develop an odd friendship.

Turn Me On Goddammit

Meanwhile, Artur has designs of his own, and he decides to approach Alma at a party and express his interest in her the only way he knows how—by pulling out his penis and poking Alma in the thigh with it. I should mention that this happens outside while both are standing against the wall of the house.

Weird.

Alma tells her friends about the incident, but as it turns out, the alpha of the group is also in love with Artur and isn’t having it. Alma is subsequently ostracized from her friends and the rest of the school, to the point that she’s given the name “Dick-Alma”. Everything for her suddenly falls apart. When her mother receives the sex hotline telephone bill, Alma is relegated to working at the neighbourhood grocery store. When things seem like they can’t get any worse, a confrontation with Artur goes awry and Alma finds herself running away from home to Oslo.

The Norwegians, as I am coming to understand, have a gift for what is becoming the lost art of cinematography. (Actually, you might night agree that it’s becoming a lost art, but you would if you saw the way they shoot their films vs. the way we shoot ours.)  Both of the Norwegian films that I’ve screened this year have so much visual depth, I was made keenly aware of the fact that though I’ve seen many films, I haven’t ‘seen’ much at all.

Visually speaking, Turn Me On, Goddammit is brilliant. The entire film itself plays like an A+ concept that would've had an A execution if only some piece of luggage didn’t get left behind. While we usually complain that films are too long, at 76 minutes Turn Me On is way, way too short. There felt like 10 minutes of good story missing at the tail-end, like a completed jigsaw puzzle with a token piece missing. But if I’m to judge on the parts that were present, there are no complaints. Alma’s best friend Sara (played by Malin Bjoerhovde) is especially engaging as the cynically hypocritical crusader who writes a ton of prison pen-pal letters she’s too afraid to actually post.

Turn Me On, Goddammit is in equal parts uproariously funny and deeply anxious, and it succeeds in revealing the parts of being a teenager that we all went through but would never discuss, let alone admit. (Guilty!)

Grade: A-

Photo Credits: (c) 2011 Tribeca Film Festival: Marianne Bakke/Motlys