The Iron Ladies (Thai)

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You can tell they’ve been watching our films over in Thailand, because “The Iron Ladies” makes use of every cliche Hollywood has to offer. And since it’s both a sports film AND a gay film, it has two genres’ worth of stereotypes to choose from, adding up to a movie that is amusing but not clever. You like it, but you can’t really admire it.

Based on a true story, it is about a Bangkok volleyball team coached by a no-nonsense lesbian (Shiriohana Hongsopon) who allows two gay men, Jung (Chaicharn Nimpulsawasdi) and Mon (Sahaphap Tor), to join the team. This causes nearly every other team member to quit, the only hold-out being Chai (Jesdaporn Pholdee), who is allegedly heterosexual but dying to play volleyball.

Mon is your basic brooding, bitchy gay man, while Jung is your basic over-the-top squealing fairy. (This has nothing to do with his sexuality, but I honestly think I would smack Jung in the face if I had to spend more than five minutes with him.) With their team decimated, they go recruiting among their old college friends to find new players: Pia (Kokkorn Benjathikoon), who is well on his way to being a woman; Nong (Giorgio Maiocchi), a military man with gorgeous fingernails; and Wit (Ekachai Buranapanit), a closet case who is about to marry a woman, much to his own dismay.

Every gay stereotype is used, including Nong becoming hysterical when he breaks a nail. The other teams react to the Iron Ladies, as they are known, with amusement and derision, but never any serious gay-bashing. It’s all played for laughs here, and the tone is unceasingly light.

It is interesting to note that the most straight-acting player, Mon, is the only one played by a homosexual. The other gays are played by straight actors, which may explain some of their two-dimensional drama queen behavior: They’re being played as caricatures, rather than as real people. (The matter becomes muddier, though, when I remember that I know real-life gay men who are every bit as fey and “stereotypical” as Jung, Nong and the rest. Some stereotypes are true, I guess, though obviously not in every case.)

Then there are the sports clichés, also in great abundance. They include: the Winning Streak, the Match They Lose Due to Conflicts Between Team Members, the Silly Thing That Helps Them Win (when they wear makeup, they play better), the Teammates Who Don’t Like Each Other but Learn to in the End, and of course the Player Who Must Leave but Who Returns Just in Time to Help Them Win.

It is amusing to see mincing gay men play volleyball, and what’s nice is that it’s OK to find it amusing; the movie does, and the movie is as gay-friendly as you please. The in-fighting and cattiness among team members are also good for a few laughs.

But the cuteness only lasts for so long before it gets old and the weakness of the story starts to shine through. Dress it up in as many frilly pink bows as you want, but this is still just a basic “underdog sports team” movie. It’s a charming one, but it’s nothing special.

B- (; R, frequent harsh profanity, a lot of vulgar language.)

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