A young blond girl with immaculate bone structure lies on the linoleum of her single mother’s kitchen floor, a man’s voice chirping from the phone piece next to her ear. Her name is Alma. Her eyes are closed, her mouth tight with the anticipation of ecstasy, her hands working furiously beneath the waistband of her cotton underwear. At the door, a black and white dog looks on, bashful and befuddled.
Norwegian filmmaker Jannicke Systed Jacobsen’s Turn Me On, Dammit! has won awards, including best screenplay at Tribeca Film Festival. Cinephiles are gushing in celebration of what Jacobsen has brought to our viewing pleasure: an honest, raw, multidimensional portrayal of a 15-year-old girl’s sexual complexity. “Because I’m horny,” Alma yells, when her empathetic-but-mortified mother asks about a monstrous phone bill from a “service number.” “Telephone sex, telephone sex, telephone sex!”
One can understand the mother’s consternation.
It’s hard to think of examples of such clear-eyed adolescent female desire in Hollywood. There’s Lolita, of course. And what about Mena Suvari’s Heather in American Pie 2, sensibly coaxing Oz (Chris Klein) into phone sex: “If we can’t physically be with each other, then we have to learn to be more vocal, right?” American audiences aren’t total strangers to the concept. But then again, Lolita is based on a literary classic, and Suvari’s character is already in college. Hollywood rarely gives us anything like Jacobsen’s scene of Alma bouncing up and down, masturbating in the community youth center bathroom, after an encounter in which a boy she's crushing on whips out his hard penis and jabs it at her clothed thigh.
Adolescent sexuality as seen through Hollywood’s lens is often so goofy and anxiety-ridden that it comes off a caricature. And if it’s earnest, it’s likely that the character will have an implied tragic, or even sadistic, side. See Sarah Michelle Gellar in Cruel Intentions, for example. Or Mena Suvari, again, this time as nymphet in American Beauty: after seducing her best friend’s pathetic father, her horniness reveals itself as a sorry symptom of her neglected childhood. What she really wants is love, not sex.
While there are other subjects under examination in Turn Me On, Dammit!—loneliness, boredom, existential impatience—Alma’s libido is unapologetic. It’s hungry, a little bit awkward, and entirely realistic. Her erotic urges are not a manifestation for something hidden or faulty about her character. Alma's just horny.
Here's the trailer for the film, which is, unfortuately, probably NSFW: