The Iron Ladies

on May 19, 2001 by Tim Cogshell
   Based on a true story, "The Iron Ladies" is funny and unapologetic about its point of view, the gist of which is it's good to be gay. The film tells the story of the 1996 Thai national championship volleyball team. It begins when a female coach is assigned to a regional squad and all but one member of the team dismisses her has a lesbian and quits. Coach Bee (Siridhana Hongsophon) holds new tryouts and what she finds is a number of very talented players who happen to be gay, transvestite or transsexual. Her first recruits are Mon (Sahaparp Virakamin), a gay man who's been turned down for several teams because of his homosexuality, and Mon's best friend, Jung (Chaichan Nimpoonsawas), a flamboyantly gay man who turns out to be pretty good at the net. Mon and Jung set about recruiting several of their friends for the team, including a buff transvestite Army captain; a beautiful transsexual with a handsome straight boyfriend (and a wicked spike); and a set of gay triplets who together make one pretty good volleyball player. Tensions flare when the only straight player on the team, Chai (Jessdaponr Pholdee), has a difficult time with the outrageous behavior of his teammates, not to mention always being mistaken for a gay man. When it comes down to it, though, the "boys" all realize that they have at least one thing in common: a desire to win.

   "The Iron Ladies" wears its ideals on its sleeve. It isn't very coy, but it avoids individual stereotypes: The "men" of Iron Ladies represent the breadth of homosexuality, from the "he doesn't seem gay" gay man to the "That's a guy?!" type of gay man, which is not only a realistic reflection of the actual 1996 Thai national champions, but true of the gay community in general. They are much maligned, but the Iron Ladies persevere. They not only survive, they win--and everybody loves a winner.    Starring Chaichan Nimpoonsawas, Sahaparp Virakamin, Giorgio Maiocchi, Gokogorn Benjathikul, Jessdaporn Pholdee, Ekachai Buranapanit and Siridhana Hongsophon. Directed by Yongyoot Thongkongtoon. Written by Visuthichai Boonyakarinjana, Jira Maligool and Yongyoot Thongkongtoon. Produced by Visute Poolvoralaks. A Strand release. Drama. Thai-language; subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 105 min.

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