Robert Smigel on Co-Writing and Directing Adam Sandler’s Netflix Comedy ‘The Week Of’
Netflix’s new comedy “The Week Of” stars Adam Sandler with Chris Rock and Steve Buscemi. Sandler plays a Jewish middle-class dad whose daughter, Sarah (Allison Strong), is set to be married. The husband to be is Tyler (Roland Buck III), whose father, Kirby Cordice (Rock), is a much wealthier Manhattan surgeon. The plot deals with Sandler’s character, Kenny Lustig, struggling to pay for the wedding, and turning down Kirby’s offer to foot the bill. Hijinks ensue as Kenny must contend with the claustrophobic confines of his large family and attempt to figure out how to give his daughter the perfect wedding.
Another Adam Sandler production, via Happy Madison, “The Week Of” is co-written by Sandler and Robert Smigel and directed by Smigel. The two reunited with Rock from their old “Saturday Night Live” days. As a first-time director, Smigel explains that he found solace in the friendship of his old friends.
“They’re both very good friends of mine. So, I felt very comfortable with them. And Adam especially really had my back,” said Smigel. “They surrounded me with amazing people. So, I really felt like I had a lot of safety nets. It was shockingly fun. I didn’t expect it be, I expected agony.”
On his first time in the director’s seat, Smigel told us, “Usually, when I work, the most fun part is coming up with the idea, and the rest is just executing it. It’s agony, just getting every detail right. I’m a detail freak. But in this case, I just had amazing support and fantastic actors.”
Indeed, “The Week of” has surprisingly naturalistic directorial tendencies, allowing the film’s scenes to flow and breathe. According to Smigel, this was all part of his and Sandler’s plan. “Adam set out, when he had this idea, that the movie would not look like a typical summer comedy, that the movie would look more like more realism, more verite, almost like an independent film. We even talked about John Cassavetes as one of the directors we admired. The movie’s nothing like a Cassavetes film,” Smigel said with a laugh. “But the movie definitely has a different energy. We didn’t write toward one liners, we wrote it toward characters and situations. Some of the situations get very broad but the characters always stay rounded and recognizable.”
Strong and Sandler have great on-screen chemistry as father/daughter. Roland Buck III and Chris Rock also make a believable father/son coupling, though Kirby did not have much of a role in raising Tyle, leaving their characters’ relationship somewhat strained in the film. The young husband and wife to be are an interracial couple from different classes. Viewers might expect the film to deal comedically with these divides. Instead, it chooses to ignore the divisions, and focus instead on unity. Strong, Buck III and Smigel all agree that was the best way for the film to go.
“I love that there’s an interracial couple, but it’s not commented on, especially during these times,” noted Strong. Smigel concurred, suggesting that drawing overt comedic attention to the divides would have been inappropriate. “I didn’t really think it was worth commenting on. There were a couple times when jokes would be suggested that would allude to it, and I kind of tried to go out of my way to leave them out of the movie. And I don’t think you miss [those jokes].”
Buck III emphasized that the goal with the film was to shift focus away from divides like race and class, and instead hone in on the strength of Tyler and Sarah’s tight-knit families. “It’s funny because [the film] doesn’t really have to do [with] race, it doesn’t have to do [with] this Jewish family and this black family, not the obvious,” Buck III confirmed. “It doesn’t have to do [with] that, it shouldn’t be obvious anymore. It should just be [about] love, and it’s more [about] cultural differences and the little nuances within each family that they’re struggling with.”
Like with most Adam Sandler movies, there’s a big, idiosyncratic family dynamic front and center. Kenny has an argumentative wife he’s always fighting with (Rachel Dratch), a kooky and devious brother, (Buscemi), and a senile WWII vet of an uncle (Jim Barone). Smigel notes that the strong family dynamic comes straight from his and Sandler’s own lives. “Adam and I, we’ve written a lot of silly things together, but one of the ways we bonded on ‘Saturday Night Live’ was because we both have very close-knit families, we both worshipped our fathers,” Smigel reflected. “So, it was easy for us to write this kind of character comedy. We never got to do it before, so it’s sort of a culmination of our friendship creatively, to finally get to write about our lives this way.”
Addressing his hopes for the film, Smigel said simply that “I hope [the audience] will find it funny, but I hope they have just a genuine affection for the movie, because the movie is very loving of family.” Buck III had similar feelings, noting that the movie is full of love. “It was grounded, it’s based in love. I feel like everybody has that crazy family member that might embarrass them, but they love them [anyway].”
“The Week Of” is available April 27 on Netflix.