Turn Me On, Dammit!
The notion of a mainstream sex comedy where the lead character is a 15-year-old girl who calls phone-sex lines, reads porn mags and has a vivid erotic fantasy life entirely on her own remains as foreign as pickled herring in America. Teen sex movies in this country are almost always from the male perspective; boys are allowed to be horny, raunchy, lecherous goons, but girls are usually allowed to have sexual feelings only as it relates to completing men's wish-fulfillment dreams straight from the pages of Maxim or Penthouse Forum. Compared to that circumscribed, market-driven world, this bracingly fresh Norwegian slice of adolescence feels revelatory.
Alma (Helene Bergsholm) is a very smart, naturally pretty, otherwise average high schooler, with a libido that seems intense — if only to those who've completely forgotten what it felt like to be a hormonal teenager. She lives in Skoodenheim, a sleepy, semi-rural town where the principal industry seems to be the turnip processing plant, where her put-upon single mother toils.
Alma has a sweetly flirtatious friendship with a handsome choirboy named Artur (Matias Myren), but they have only gotten physical in her many vivid fantasies. That changes one night at a party, when the usually shy Artur makes his intentions known by poking Alma in the leg with his enthusiastic boner. When she reports this to her pals, she's quickly mocked and labeled a liar and a degenerate sex freak. Soon the whole school is turning their back to her, in campaign lead by prissy Ingrid (Beate Stofring), who has her own designs on Artur. Even Alma's sarcastic, mini-Janeane Garofalo clone, and best friend, Sara Lou
(Malin Bjørhovde), who writes letters to Texas death-row inmates, won't be seen with her in public; they can only chat at the bus stop.
The young cast, led by the brilliant Bergsholm, are all naturalistic, relatable and believable in the awkwardness between their desires and reality. This sort of honesty is rare domestically, maybe in early Todd Solondz before he became impossible, but he never had the grace, warmth and heart seen here. None of this is earth-shattering stuff, but director Jannicke Systad Jacobsen understands that, to a teen, isolation is like a death sentence, and adolescent longing can make it feel like the end of the world is coming every day. —Corey Hall
Opens Friday, June 15, at the Maple Art Theatre, 4135 W. Maple Rd., Bloomfield Hills; 248-263-2111.