When we watch an Adam Sandler comedy, we're probably not expecting an insanely relatable story set in a place that could easily pass for our own hometowns. What Sandler movie from the past few years hasn't revolved around an outlandish but hilarious concept taking place in a quirky location? That streak is now broken with the release of Sandler's latest Netflix comedy The Week Of, which introduces him as a loving father in the week leading up to his daughter's hectic wedding day. The role has a kind of maturity and tenderness that we haven't seen Sandler handle in the past, and The Week Of star Allison Strong sat down with Elite Daily to discuss how much Adam Sandler has changed since the films for which we know him best.
Strong plays Sandler's daughter Sarah in the film, mirroring her father's relatively grounded nature as her big day approaches. The Week Of explores Sandler's character's determination to give Sarah her dream wedding without breaking the bank when his well-meaning mission clashes with that of his future son-in-law's wealthy father (Chris Rock).
If the story of quite different people coming together for a special occasion sounds familiar, it's because The Week Of takes the best elements of our favorite wedding films and handles them in its own distinct way. Strong, appearing in her first feature film, cites Father of the Bride and My Big Fat Greek Wedding as precursors to The Week Of, but Sandler's involvement made her especially excited to be in the film.
He was like part of the family.
"It didn’t seem too far off to imagine him as a father figure, because he was like part of the family," Strong says, "just because you grow up watching his films. Most of [my scenes] are with Adam, because we have a really tender father-daughter relationship in the film, sort of like harkening to Father of the Bride... I found out that Adam hand-picked me [for the role], and it meant a lot to me. We got very close."
Tenderness and Adam Sandler usually don't go hand in hand, but his character is also surrounded by loving family members who bond with Sarah's fiancé's family despite a socioeconomic difference between the two clans. "In this case, my family’s broke, Chris Rock’s family is wealthier, and he wants to help," Strong explains, saying that the couple being in an interracial relationship isn't the story's focus. "I’ve seen a lot of the comments that people have put on the [film's] trailers, and sometimes they’re not kind and they do bring that up about race, but I think when they see the film, they’re going to see beyond color. They’re just going to see that it’s about love, connection, and what’s really important."
Despite Sandler and Rock's characters feuding over finances, the two families get along amazingly well, each coming with their own set of weirdos that every wedding is inevitably equipped with. But as any other wedding movie will prove to you, a couple is married by the time the credits roll, and this (assumingly) happy ending allows Sandler to showcase a different side of himself to audiences.
I know working with Adam, he feels like home, and I think he feels like home to a lot of viewers.
"It’s a departure for Adam, but also he’s playing a father figure, he’s really coming into his own," Strong says. "At this point in Adam’s life, he has daughters himself. Watching his performance and the relationship he has with his daughter in this film, I think people are going to walk out really touched. I know working with Adam, he feels like home, and I think he feels like home to a lot of viewers."
Of course, don't take that as a sign that you'll find it difficult to recognize the leading man's work. Strong recalls plenty of laughing on set with co-stars Sandler, Rock, Rachel Dratch, and several comedic improvisers who played supporting characters. "Adam and I would sing a lot on set, he’s actually a musical theater fan himself," she says. "So we would sing a lot of West Side Story... but he also plays a lot of hip-hop and dance music so we’re always dancing on set. When the hours get long, it’s always much-appreciated to sort of break up the tension and exhaustion of long days."
For Strong, playing the straight man in a comedy is new territory. Her past work includes roles in Mamma Mia! and Bye Bye Birdie on Broadway, in which she played quirkier characters. "Everything is spinning out of control this one week before my wedding, and I’m the one stable thing," Strong says of her character. "That’s interesting for me to switch gears like that because I’m usually the oddball."
Strong took the change in stride, working with the film's creative team to determine specific details of her character's life. She selected Sarah's wedding dress herself, and having that insight into her role only made her experience on set better. "Our director Robert Smigel respected, listened to, and often took my opinion into account in making decisions for my role," she says. "To think they took a lot of my creative concerns into consideration, that meant so much to me. And also, since it’s my first film, it’s really my departure from theater into a completely new era of my career and I’m grateful for it. This is what I’ve wanted for a long time."
The Week Of marks a new milestone for both Strong and Sandler, who also continues his re-upped deal with Netflix through this film. He may not have appeared on the literal silver screen recently, but The Week Of introduces a different layer to Sandler's comedy that we may need now more than ever.
"No matter how hard times get, watching an Adam Sandler film and just getting to sit back, relax, and laugh, and, in this case, cry, it’s pretty cathartic," Strong says.
With this promise of Sandler embracing his heartfelt side in The Week Of, it looks like we have a new addition in the go-to canon of wedding movies.
The Week Of will debut on Netflix on Friday, April 27.