directed by Youngyooth Thongkongthun runs Oct. 5-11 at Egyptian
IN HOLLYWOOD, the pitch for Iron Ladies would go "think Bad News Bears meets Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" (or worse, "To Wong Foo . . . with a shot of EXPN"). Sounds dicey, right? Fortunately, this kicky little comedy—based on the true story of a 1996 Thai men's national volleyball championship team—comes from Bangkok instead. The SIFF favorite also boasts enough heart to compensate for its lack of polish, as evidenced by the audience awards it won at both New York's and San Francisco's gay and lesbian film festivals.
When Mon and his best friend, the irrepressible girly-man Jung, land spots on the local volleyball team, all but one of the teammates walk, refusing to play alongside a pair of fairies— or under the auspices of the newly recruited lesbian coach. So our heroes fill out the remaining spots with a gaggle of old friends: glamorous cross-dressing showgirl-impersonator Pia; suburban closet-case Wit; Nong, a dumb ox whose limp wrists don't hinder his unstoppable power serve; and the giddy triplets April, May, and June. Despite broken hearts and a lot of squabbling, the team reaches the national finals, where it must face a prejudiced tournament commissioner and a rival squad led by its own homophobic former captain.
On a technical level, Ladies is far from perfect. Choppy editing makes for some jarring transitions, and while the broad comedic moments transcend language barriers, the film's subtler scenes feel undermined by too-succinct subtitles. The one bona fide musical production number will look pretty scrappy to Western drag aficionados, although the ensembles, fashioned from what appear to be neon-colored clothespins, are unbeatable. Ultimately, the stars and story outshine these shortcomings, proving that all you need to win is teamwork—and a really good foundation.