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By Peter Hanson | January 23, 2005

Try Weaker, and you’re closer to the mark. A flat and tiresome vignette proving that Canadian filmmakers can portray African-American women as screeching harpies with an acumen equal to that of their counterparts in the U.S., Stronger tells the uninvolving story of two black women arguing in a Toronto hair salon. In typical short fashion, the extended scene that comprises Debra Felstead’s movie starts mysteriously, then reveals layers of backstory and character before building to something resembling a climax. Problem is, none of the elements are interesting or even novel. A loud woman named Rhona walks into a salon to get her nails done, then discovers that an old friend named Keesha is working at the salon. Over the course of their conversation, it comes out that Keesha used to be involved with Rhona’s current husband, or something like that. The writing in this short is strident without being sharp, elusive without being clever, and brash without being surprising; therefore, it’s difficult to figure out the intention or even, really, the content of this piece. The general impression is that Rhona’s discovery of her husband’s past with Keesha provokes her to declare a new level of empowerment in which she accepts her husband’s affection for Keesha because of the confidence Rhona draws from her husband’s commitment to their marriage. But it’s all just too tiring to dissect, because at best, Stronger is an 11-minute soap opera. At worst, it’s pedestrian tripe featuring histrionic stereotypes barking lines including “Step back, little girl!” Inspired? Not so much. Stronger gets two stars because the execution is competent and the acting energetic, but even that’s being generous — especially given the pretentious credit indicating this bore was inspired by the work of August Strindberg.

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