The Pharmacist (2012) – By Cary Conley

Hal is a pharmacist that works for a little mom-and-pop pharmacy, the kind of place that sees the same customers year after year, sometimes for decades. It’s a place where the local pharmacist really gets to know his customers, and those customers appreciate Hal. But just like any local store, the pharmacy isn’t without its problems. One of the store’s owners allows his self-absorbed daughter to work as the cashier. April is cute, but doesn’t have a complete grasp of customer service, and she’s much more interested in her new boyfriend and her Twitter account than she is getting to know those customers. This causes some technical glitches and delays in serving the customers and the other pharmacy owner, Mr. Jarvis, thinks he knows how to solve the problem: Green Cross.

Green Cross is the name of a prescription drug dispensing machine which Mr. Jarvis has had installed in the store. Against Hal’s wishes, Mr. Jarvis insists that all the customers must use the machine. After all, it dispenses in under two minutes and with 100 per cent accuracy. But while the machine is quick and accurate, it cannot account for the quirks of human nature, and now Hal’s job is made even more difficult by a stubborn boss as well as a machine with no personality.

This 20-minute comedy-drama is a cute, funny little film that perfectly portrays the neighborhood stores people of my generation grew up with. But underneath the comedy and quirky characters lies some razor-sharp commentary about technology and customer service. The message is loud and clear: just because machines are quicker doesn’t always make them better. There’s something to be said about old-fashioned humans behind a counter. This is proven when an elderly lady with an anger issue goes berserk and whips out her gun to shoot Green Cross when it doesn’t apply her insurance to the medicine bill. Hal must rush over, calm her down, and hand-fill her prescription. Likewise the paranoiac with OCD who is afraid of germs and loves routine. He ends up being dragged out of the store in handcuffs, all because Mr. Jarvis equates impersonal technology with customer service more than he does humanity.

Hal begins his day switching his GPS on even though he knows his way to his son’s school and then to work like the back of his hand. He ends his day tossing the GPS out the window and taking a chance on getting lost as he travels home. After all, we don’t need technology to run our lives entirely do we?

The Pharmacist is an entertaining little film with an undercurrent of social commentary. For those who don’t want the commentary, just sit back and enjoy the humorous ride. Writer Michael Cassidy and director Paula Wood have collaborated to make a fine film which can be enjoyed on multiple levels. Matthew James Gulbranson does a terrific job as Hal the pharmacist. He is beaten down by his son (I’d like to one day meet someone who has a teenager who likes them), by April, the dimwitted boss’ daughter he is forced to supervise, by Mr. Rumus who feels so much more superior to Hal but really doesn’t understand anything, and finally by Green Cross. Ultimately, Hal saves the day and proves again that humans are superior to machines in many different ways. Allison Howard co-stars as April and plays the part perfectly. She is harmless, but shallow, and in many ways highlights the flaws we humans have that machines do not. And Michael Gabel as Mr. Jarvis is excellent as the smugly superior boss who pooh-poohs Hal’s quaint ideas about customer service.

This is a fun little film and definitely worth viewing. It is available by Video On Demand through its website, http://praetorianpictures.com/Landing_Site/The_Pharmacist.html.