Monday, May 14, 2012

Turn Me On, Dammit! (A-)

Over the last several days, a rousing, near universally acclaimed comedic adventure targeted at the general public has been demolishing the box office record books; conquering one seemingly unobtainable achievement after the other in an unrelenting bid for eternal box office infamy. In a mere weekend in the U.S alone, it amassed a trailblazing $207,000,000; almost $50 million more than the previous record holder. On its second weekend, it only dropped 50%, obtaining $103,000,000; also a record. It has grossed approximately $375 million dollars domestic: Almost dethroning 2012's biggest movie so far, The Hunger Games, in less than two whole weeks. It's the cinematic equivalent to an unstoppable force of nature; a medieval warlord with enough power to have complete dominance over foes; the brick home the three little pigs used to protect themselves from the big bad wolf. Its absolute supremacy at the theater was tested last weekend with the release of Tim Burton's highly anticipated adaptation of the cult TV series Dark Shadows, but even this seemingly worthy opponent was stopped in its tracks. The Avengers has taken such absolute precedence at the box office that nearly every alternative has been eclipsed, and overshadowed. Grossing a worldwide total of $61,446, the Norwegian coming-of-age story Turn Me On, Dammit could, without any second guessing, be considered the anti-Avengers. 

Starring newcomer Helene Bergsholm as a sex-obsessed teenager, director and writer Jannicke Systad Jacobsen gives a thoughtful, and far more likable take on the traditional "teen sex comedy" genre. Set in an isolated village, after an awkward sexual encounter with a popular classmate, Alma (Helene Bergsholm) makes the mistake of telling her friends (Malin Bjorhovde and Beate Stofring), who believe the story is just a perverted fantasy concocted for attention. In the fallout, she becomes a social pariah, and is forced to deal with the consequences of the encounter while also trying to correct them. It's an emotionally honest and far more realistic version of Will Gluck's 2010 comedy Easy A, if it had been shot in the melancholic Norwegian landscape rather than the sunny locals of California. Though the plot of this film may sound more glum than the latter (and it certainly is), most of the humor remains intact, though it's certainly more subtle.
Alma's mother (Henriette Steenstrup) can be seen as the leading example for the film's use of subtle comedy. While still realistically handling her daughter's early blooming sexuality, she remains one of the funniest characters in the film. Awkwardly, and definitely uncomfortably, the mother attempts to "cure" her daughter without becoming overbearing. This relationship leads to a variety of scenes that, while just as awkward for the audience member as the mother, manage to absorb humor from a realistic situation without turning the character into a cartoon or "cool mom" stereotype. There are no real bombastic comedic set-pieces as found in the majority of mainstream comedies, but with a steady stream of enjoyable subtlety, there's no real need.
For high speed action and exhilarating excitement, there's probably one movie you should seek out this weekend, and it isn't this one. However, if you're interested in a subtle, realistic, and fairly hilarious small independent foriegn film, you can't do much better than Turn Me On, Dammit!.

Grade: A-

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