About a month ago I went to one of my local independent theaters dying to see the Dardenne Brothers’ new film, The Kid with a Bike. They are incredible filmmakers and they really inspire me, but more on this in a future post. When I got to the theater, The Kid with a Bike was experiencing technical difficulties and I had to choose another film. Everything had already started but Turn Me On Dammit! I knew the film dealt with the sexuality of a 15-year-old girl (something that definitely turned a lot of older people off to the film) and it won Best Screenplay at the Tribeca Film Festival. I enjoyed the film, but something felt a little off. And then I realized Turn Me On Dammit should have been a short film, not a feature film.
Turn Me On Dammit! was cute. That probably isn’t the best way to describe the film because it pretty raunchy, but it felt fluffy and light. That said, it was really interesting seeing something so taboo in American culture, teenage sexuality, be handled in such a blunt manner. Th very beginning of the film sets up the premise perfectly. This 15-year-old girl is so horny, but also unsure of her own sexuality that she calls phone sex hot lines while she masturbates on the kitchen floor. The scene is hilarious. Her dog watches her, confused, as her mom gets home from work and she’s almost caught. I was immediately hooked. And then a hilarious moment I don’t want to reveals ends the first act and the film appears to be heading in a great direction.
But then the rest of the film drags a long. There’s definitely funny moments throughout the entire film but nothing that interesting happens. In fact, the film constantly finds new, hip ways to re-tell us everything we’ve already seen. Characters begin making convenient decisions that extend the running time but have no significance to their actual development or the story. Even though the film is only 80 minutes, when it ends you feel like you sat through a 2 hour movie because there is no propulsion, no cause and effect story telling. Instead of “this happens there for this happens, but then this happens,” we get “this happens and then this happens, and then this happens.” Trust me, there’s a difference. It’s episodic and wastes a pretty great premise.
The wasted premise is disappointing, but I believe we have a lot to learn from Turn Me On Dammit! This is because there’s a great short film hidden in this premise. In film school I was constantly told, “Don’t try to pack a feature film into a short film!” I heard this because I was working in the medium of short film, and now I’m out of school. The goal is to make feature films. I guess the lesson is “Don’t try to turn a short film into a feature film!” But I believe this lesson doesn’t dive deep enough. In reality, the lesson is, “You need to figure out what medium best serves your story.” If you have a story to tell it doesn’t mean it’s right for a feature film. Maybe it’d be better as a mini series, television series, or short film. Maybe even a novel. Turn Me On Dammit! was an okay feature film, but it could have been a great short film.