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Turn Me On, Dammit! a funny, bittersweet reminder of what it's like to be young, horny and perpetually frustrated

Sex and the Single Girl

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I love that for the past month, the hot cinematic topic in Tuscaloosa, Ala., has not been a superhero movie, a 3-D blockbuster or even a major-studio release, but a teenage sex comedy from Norway that hardly anybody in the heartland has even heard of. Thank whoever decided to yank a screening of Turn Me On, Dammit! from the Bama Theatre after complaints from local clergy, then restore it after equally intense public outcry.

But it's easy to see why pastors got hot under their collars, and other folks too. If all you're used to seeing are the smirky evasions of major-studio movies — yeah, that includes you, Magic Mike, penis pump and all — the short, bittersweet Turn Me On, Dammit! is a shockingly forthright blast of thwarted hormones, right from the opening sequence of 18-year-old lead Helene Bergsholm frantically trying to get off to a phone-sex worker's chipper spiel.

In fact, you can pretty much count the reasons Jannicke Systad Jacobsen's first fiction feature would never get made as-is in America: Teenage girls do all the talking about sex, and their concerns are foremost; they're not punished for their curiosity or manipulated by plotting into some melodramatic crisis; they don't all look like supermodels in training. (Sorry, pervs — nudity is in short, if strategic, supply.) But longtime documentarian Jacobsen evokes the desperate longing and confusion of adolescent sexuality so vividly — and so amusingly — guys are just as likely to sympathize.

The inciting incident is smartly scaled, too awkward to be threatening yet too invasive to be shrugged off: During a break in a party, gangly Artur (Matias Myren) pokes Bergstrom's Alma with his boner then won't own up to it, setting off a chain reaction that not only leaves her a school outcast but strands her with the nickname "Dick-Alma." This does nothing to help Alma calm her raging hormones, which seek outlets in fantasy interludes involving Artur, her best friend's vengeful sister, even her scruffy convenience-store boss.

Yet at every point where an American movie would deliver Alma a smackdown — you'll brace for the worst when the girl hitchhikes a ride with a trucker to Oslo — director Jacobsen resists the urge for afterschool-special moralizing. At the same time, the movie isn't blithe: Alma's choices carry danger that keeps us on edge even when things turn out well.

But Alma is a great character, tough, resourceful and funny, and first-time actor Bergsholm projects an active, restless mind as well as a libido. She carries the movie with a winning combination of resilience, unaffected sexiness and gawky comic timing. If older teens get to see the unrated Turn Me On, Dammit!, whether here at The Belcourt or in Tuscaloosa, they'll learn the most helpful thing to keep in mind during years of teenage frustration: They pass.

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