Iron Ladies made a brief sojourn to UK arthouse cinemas back in the early part of the 21st century. Riding on the wave of critical acclaim that Tears of the Black Tiger’, the first ever Thai film to get released over here, received Iron Ladies became a minor hit on the specialised circuit. This success was well deserved as Iron Ladies is a genuinely wonderful entry into the sports comedy genre of films and has the added advantage of being based on a true story.
The Iron Ladies is the nickname given to a volleyball team made almost entirely of gay, transvestite or transsexual men who band together in the face of prejudice from other players.
The movie begins with a local volleyball team going through tryouts for the upcoming local championships. The coach is picking the players he wants for his team and the long haired ?, who is easily good enough, is shocked, upset and annoyed to find that he is not in the team. There can only be one reason he decides, it is because he is gay and the other players, especially the best player in the team don’t want him in the team.
Very soon after this the team gets a new coach, to improve their chances in the upcoming games. The coach picked is a woman, and to make things worse a lesbian woman at that! The men in the team don’t like this and are even angrier when she does tryouts again and Chai and his friend Mon, a very, very effeminate guy both get in. The team captain, an arrogant, cocky player refuses to play with them, or under the coach. Angry at this prejudice shown against them Chai & Mon join up with the one heterosexual guy who stands with them to stand up to the captain. Eventually this leads to them forming their own team, full of their friends, to compete in the local championships and hopefully on to the national championships from there. With the lesbian coach joining them can this unusual band of players become champions or will they be the plucky, unlucky losers? Can they band together as a team or will the catfights and petty squabbles ruin their chances?
The first thing to say is that Volleyball is obviously a massive thing Thailand. The crowds they have for matches are as big as the stadium they are in. The championships are important to the local areas and the fans are very fanatical in their love of the game. It looks as if it is as big as football here in the UK. This explains why the story was so big in Thailand and why a film was made about it, it would have a guaranteed audience right from the off.
Iron Ladies is one of those films that hardly anyone will ever watch but so deserves to be seen by a wider audience. Even I would say that the synopsis of the film and the basis of it wouldn’t have interested me much at all. Luckily I saw a trailer for it while in an arts cinema and both me and my friends both said we’ve got to see that! If I hadn’t a film called Iron Ladies just wouldn’t have made me even take a second glance at it.
When you look at it though it has everything a top movie requires a great story, witty dialogue, acting that is better than average, a nice bit of drama, a dose of overcoming personal prejudices and a big star name to pull in the audiences okay it doesn’t have one of them as far as we are concerned!
The whole story is very formulaic, it is like pretty much every team sport movie you will have seen, but in this case you don’t mind because the story is engaging and the actors are infectious, their lovely sing song voices are just beautiful to listen to.
You thrill as the main characters get picked, feel sorrow when things go wrong and get elated when they start to do well in the local competition.
The whole section of the film where the main characters go round recruiting their friends for the team (very reminiscent of the same thing in Shaolin Soccer) including the gay soldier Iron Pussy’, the beautiful Pia and the triplets is funny enough to keep a smile on your face permanently.
The slices of Thai life you see are bright, colourful and lively, which is a great description of the whole film!
Everything about Iron Ladies is just wonderful, it entranced me again recently when I watched the DVD again recently, even though I knew the ending. All the main characters are so well defined that you feel part of the team, caught up in their trials and tribulations.
A nice added extra’ to the film is the footage, during the credits, of the real team in action and being interviewed on TV. It is one of those little touches that you wouldn’t see in a Hollywood film and adds something to the whole package.