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‘The Week Of’s’ Robert Smigel on directing Adam Sandler’s most grounded and ‘naturalistic’ comedy in years

The result is the best Happy Madison film for quite a while
Chris Rock and Adam Sandler
[Image: Netflix]

The Week Of isn’t your usual Adam Sandler comedy. 

First of all there is Sandler’s performance, which is much more contained and grounded than we are accustomed to seeing in a Happy Madison film. Then there’s the comedy itself, which is genuinely character driven and naturalistic, as the middle class Sandler struggles in the week leading up to his daughter's wedding, as his cost saving methods, unrelenting and seemingly endless family, and the rich father of the groom (Chris Rock) add more and more problems. 

Admittedly, the film does stray to the extreme from time to time. But the result is still one of the best comedies Sandler has co-written in years.

I recently had the chance to talk to “The Week Of’s” co-writer and director Robert Smigel, who broke down his and Sandler’s approach to the surprisingly touching and often hilarious film. 

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Whose idea was “The Week Of”?
Adam had the initial idea for it, that he would be the middle class father who wants to pay for his daughter’s wedding. And that the rich father would put pressure on him. So I kind of ran with that a bit. Came up with the escalating disasters. But the initial idea was Adam’s. I was intrigued by the idea, because he also said that he wanted it to feel a different kind of movie to the typical summer comedy. He wanted it to feel like a naturalistic, ensemble comedy. That’s something I always thought I would enjoy writing. I just hadn’t had the opportunity. The multiple paths I have chosen had always led to absurd ideas. 

What was the writing process for it then?
Adam and I would have little mini-sessions where one of us would have ideas and then bounce it off the other guy. And I would sort of tell him things I wanted to do, or different directions. Then he would say, ‘That’s great. But make sure to throw in this. He always wanted to make sure that his character was loving to his family.’ Then I would go up and write about 10 or 15 pages then send it to Adam. Then he would give suggestions. I did the bulk of the actual pounding out of the script. Came up with a lot of it. But it was a complete collaboration. 

It feels naturalistic, but there are still extremes. Did you ever have to reign it in?
There were a few moments and things that I thought might be too much for the film. I don’t like to give away jokes. There is one broad moment that I thought might be out of place in a character based comedy. But it was my idea and Adam insisted that it was really funny. But that’s about as broad as the movie gets. The movie is interesting in that way, because there are moments that feel extremely over the top in the middle of this low-key naturalistic sort of film. And that was interesting to me. I liked the idea, it just felt different to the kind of comedies that I have written with Adam, and the kinds of comedies that we usually see. Where a lot of the humor is dialogue based. And a lot of lines are written that could be interchangeable. You’ll bring in different actors to improvise and they give three different versions. That didn’t really happen in our movie too much. 

The aggression that we usually see explode from Adam is contained, it made him feel much more relatable.
There is a lot of contained rage. The only time he lets it out is when he closes the door, and yells at his wife. But it is the kind of family where that is no big deal. Everyone else goes about their business, which is just the nature of that kind of family. That was something that Adam and I shared, too, with our parents. It is just a different culture and family dynamic than some of the others we see in movies. 

With Buscemi and Dratch involved, the film feels like a reunion.
I think the fact that Adam has been seen with so many of these people on film before definitely makes it feel like more of a family. Adam Sandler , Rachel Dratch, Steve Buscemi. That wasn’t a conscious choice. But I just wrote the character and then he had to be Buscemi. There was no-one else in my mind that could say those lines. Rachel is innately hilarious and was one of my favorite people from SNL, she looked like a great fit for Adam, too. 

“The Week Of” is now on Netflix.