By Caitlin Ariel ’24
Olivia Rodrigo’s megahit “drivers license” shattered Spotify records worldwide after its Jan. 11, 2021 release, such as most global streams in a day and most streams in a week. The song, as well as Rodrigo’s full debut album, sour, left fans anticipating what would come next for the singer and wondering how she could possibly top the work she has already put out. While the artist’s new film, Olivia Rodrigo: driving home 2 u, does not provide definitive answers to these questions, it allows viewers to re-immerse themselves in sour and follow Rodrigo as she reminisces about her rise to fame.
The 77-minute film opens with a young Rodrigo in a home video. She says, “Hi, I’m Olivia Rodrigo,” loudly exhales into her microphone, and clarifies, “from California.” Viewers then see a montage of Rodrigo’s late-night show interviews, music video clips, and live performances, as well a video of the artist hearing “drivers license” on the radio for the first time. All of these moments encapsulate the young star’s seemingly overnight success.
driving home 2 u then follows Rodrigo as she ventures on a wistful yet sentimental trip from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles in her vintage sky-blue Ford Bronco. She explains that the trip from the Utah capital to sunny Los Angeles was one she had taken many times before as a child star, and she wrote most of the songs featured on sour during those trips.
While driving, Rodrigo stops to perform each of the album’s 11 songs in various locations. Many of these special performances feature rearranged versions of the tracks. For example, Rodrigo sings her head-banging break-up ballad “good 4 u” in a slowed-down, lo-fi style against the majesty of Monument Valley with an entire string section accompanying her.
Between these performances and breath-taking shots of Rodrigo driving through the desert, viewers see fly-on-the-wall footage of the artist in the recording studio with her producer and fellow songwriter, Dan Nigro. In one of the most surprising snippets of their writing and recording process, Rodrigo decides at the last minute that she wants another upbeat song on sour. The talented duo create “brutal” in what seems like less than two minutes: Nigro strums some cords on his guitar and Rodrigo starts singing over it. A song is born—and that song is now the opener on the set list for Rodrigo’s sour tour.
The movie is not necessarily a documentary about the teen star, but can perhaps best be understood as a concert film. In addition to reimagined performances of Rodrigo’s hit songs and behind-the-scenes footage of the album’s creation, the artist offers anecdotes about how the tracks came to be. She talks about the devastation and suffering that comes with heartbreak, coping methods she uses to move on from breakups and other difficult circumstances, and the overwhelming feeling that she was never enough for someone she struggled with for a long time. These moments humanize Rodrigo even more than sour does. Indeed, it is not every day that a celebrity blatantly admits to their insecurities.
Overall, driving home 2 u gives viewers a look at a mature, self-aware Rodrigo—one who, like them, is looking toward what the artist’s future holds. To this end, and to the excitement of many fans, the singer includes snippets of unreleased music in the film. Whether she fully shares these songs with the world in a month or in a year, it is safe to say that with her talents and tenacity, Rodrigo will only continue to meet with success as she grows as both a person and an artist.
Olivia Rodrigo: driving home 2 u is now streaming on Disney+.