Turn Me On, Dammit! Movie Review: Ghost World with a Libido

Written by Trisha Stucker

How many teenage movies are about boys hoping to hook up with girls?  Yeah, a lot of them.  From Grease to American Pie to Superbad and beyond because sex is on the mind of the majority of teenage boys.  But guess what?  Teenage girls also have a libido (gasp!), are curious about sex (gasp!), and have plenty of dirty day-dreams (gasp!).  Hollywood tends to tilt teenage girl movies toward getting The Love Interest to see The Main Character for the beautiful person she really is.  Even the funny, quirky Easy A is more about boys thinking about sex and girls being horrified.  But Turn Me On, Dammit! is possibly the first film I’ve seen that portrays girls during the awkward teenage years honestly. It reminds me of the quiet teenage awkwardness and outsider friendship of one of my favorite movies, Ghost World, but with a libido.

Fifteen-year-old Alma and her best friend Sara hate living in their tiny town of Skoddeheimen, Norway, so much so that their ritual when passing the sign into the town is to flip the bird.  Alma’s days mundanely pass with school and drinking beer and hanging out with her friends, but the life of her mind almost always turns to sex.  She drives up the phone bill calling Wet Dreams to have phone sex with “Stig.”  She has romantic fantasies about Artur, the guitar player in the choir and the object of her affection.  And she has down-and-dirty fantasies about practically everyone she meets, from her bitchy friend to her goofy boss.  What makes her obsession with sex so honest to the teenage years is how much they are about the build up to sex and of course the physical pleasure (her pleasure specifically); the details not yet clear to the inexperienced girl.  For example, she imagines Artur’s warm hands on her naked skin, and she imagines they laying naked in bed smoking hash after, but not really the specifics involved in love-making.

After a painfully awkward sort-of-sexual encounter at a party with Artur, she is shunned at school and finds herself isolated with no one to speak to.  Even her mother is concerned and embarrassed about her daughter’s libido.  When the phone bill comes in, she’s horrified and asks, “Why did you call a service number?” Alma replies, “Because I’m horny.”

It is only after Alma asserts her independence and escapes her small town briefly that she gains perspective on her isolation and can see all the drama as a little silly.  And when her view on the problem changes, things begin to fall into place.  Her mom gets perspective about what’s truly worth worrying about.  Sara is stronger about standing up to the crowd who have been shunning Alma.  And Artur just might be willing to lose face at school to win back Alma’s trust.

I won’t spoil the details of the turning point, but like most teenage movies, things are tied up quickly and neatly, with the idealistic sense of living happily ever after.  Of course this is not what would happen in real life, but heck, it’s a movie.  In fact, the actual relationships in the movie tend to be quite sweet once the drama is resolved, despite all the wild inner life of the teenage mind.

The side story of best friend Sara, who wants to avoid love and spends her free time writing to prisoners on death row, and who plans to leave Skoddeheimen as soon as she’s of age to move to Texas and stop the death penalty, is also a worthwhile one that feels more slice-of-life than fully developed.  But together, Sara’s idealism and desire to escape the known, and Alma’s constant obsession with sex, makes a pretty well-rounded view of being a teenage girl.

The question I’ve been asking myself is this: Is this a movie for teenage girls?  Or is it for adults and just about teenagers? It is more graphic (lots of masturbation, full penis shot, etc.) than most movies made for girls in the U.S., though maybe not so shocking in Europe. I can say for sure, no girl is going to want to sit down and watch this with her mom and talk about it afterward.  But perhaps with friends.

And finally, this movie reminds me of how frustrating life can be before one has access to regular, consistently good sex! One thing I can say for sure—I am so glad I’m not a teenage girl anymore.

The DVD comes with deleted scenes, an interview with director Jannicke Systad Jaconsen, and the theatrical trailer.

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