Olivia Rodrigo: Driving Home 2 U (A Sour Film) goes through the writing process of the triple-platinum record while intertwining it with lovely live performances.
The first time I heard the worldwide pop anthem “drivers license”, I wasn’t that into it (I like it a bit better now, preferably the live performances of it). I felt like something was lacking in its musical heft and lyrical dissipation–just another song for the young crowds and remembrance of teenage breakups. Yet, I still felt that Olivia Rodrigo had more to offer. “drivers license”” being her debut single, I knew she had something up her sleeve that could resonate with other audiences and showcase her ranging talents. And that indeed happened once the singer-songwriter delivered her debut record, “SOUR“. It took me a couple of listens to fully get into the correct mindset to appreciate the songs; I didn’t enjoy it as I do now from the first instance (it was in my top thirty favorite records of 2021). From a pop-rock banger introduction, “brutal,” to a delicate reflection of past relationships in “traitor”, Olivia managed to pour her feelings into the expansive musical landscape where all of us can partake in her pain through the lyrics or embrace them as some may have gone through similar circumstances.
In her short career span, she has managed to garner the world’s attention, and everybody listened. However, I wasn’t aware that there was going to be a documentary about the creation of “SOUR” until the day before it was actually released. Either way, I was excited to see what it would be like and how it would approach the triple-platinum record now that it is a global pop sensation and millions have inclined with the songs. In Driving Home 2 U (A Sour Film), Olivia takes us on a road trip from Salt Lake City, where she began writing the album, to Los Angeles with the primary goal of revisiting some of the places that inspired the tracks with older eyes and recounting memories of how the songs came about (as well as the events that encouraged them). Conversations about her process and how she got into her psyche to write these personal lyrics are intertwined by live performances of the record in different styles and renditions (a stripped-down version of “happier”, the first recording of “drivers license”, a string-orchestrated classical arrangement of “good 4 u”, and an early 2000s rock-esque version of “jealousy, jealousy”–which is the best song of the album, in my opinion).
We also get never-before-seen footage of the creation and production of “SOUR,” as well as intimate interviews (there are appearances from Jacob Collier and Blu DeTiger), with Olivia speaking about the many ways her debut has impacted her from the initial release in May 2021 to now, nearing its anniversary. Going back to the “older eyes” aspect I mentioned earlier, in the way Rodrigo speaks about the songs, we see how her perspective and meaning change while maturing and musical exposure. Along the trip, we see her navigating a specific time in her life that was heartbreaking for her, and writing, as she explains during the first couple of minutes, has been a form of therapy and a coping mechanism. Olivia also mentions some of the troubles she has being a young songwriter. She quotes: “the hardest part about being a songwriter sometimes is diving into those really painful emotions” and, “I think you can never lie to yourself when you’re writing a song.”
Unfortunately, you don’t learn much about the pop star on a broader level, even though there are occasions of vulnerability in the footage (frustrations, the heartbreak in the lyrics, etc). Most of what is said, to some extent, has already been voiced in interviews or magazine profiles made on her. What I appreciate is that it doesn’t go in a cookie-cutter route and simplify/tone down things thematically or in retrospect of the discussions. The part that steals the show in this short 77-minute documentary, and the one that most people will enjoy the most, is the performances, which are lovely and well produced. Olivia Rodrigo: Driving Home 2 U (A Sour Film) isn’t the best music documentary of the year; that title goes to Andrew Dominik’s This Much I Know to Be True (as of the time of writing this review). Nevertheless, it’s handled with care and has enough moments of delicacy and slick performances for one to enjoy. This is only the beginning for Rodrigo, and I hope her career shines bright for many years. Whatever her next musical venture may be, I will be waiting for it with open arms.
Olivia Rodrigo: Driving Home 2 U (A Sour Film) is now available to watch on Disney Plus.