Olivia Rodrigo beautifully recounts heartbreak, growth in ‘Driving Home 2 U’

Photo of a still from the Olivia Rodrigo documentary
Disney/Courtesy

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Grade: 4.0/5.0

Olivia Rodrigo’s debut single “Drivers License” may have been released over a year ago, but fans aren’t experiencing deja vu with her newest addition to the Sour universe.

In the Disney+ original documentary, “Olivia Rodrigo: Driving Home 2 U (A Sour Film),” Rodrigo recounts her experiences navigating the journey of producing her debut album and grappling with her resulting rise to fame. Coupled with breathtaking cinematography and stunning new vocal arrangements, Rodrigo entices her audience with a refreshing new perspective on her record-smashing album.

While “Drivers License” drove Rodrigo to breakthrough success in an extraordinarily short amount of time, “Driving Home 2 U” beautifully contrasts the fast-paced trajectory of her career. The documentary allows Rodrigo to drive at her own pace through her memories of songwriting, the recording process and her emotions during this time of her life.

The documentary begins with a performance of “Happier,” the first track that Rodrigo wrote for the album. Rodrigo reflects on her passion for songwriting, expressing that “being a songwriter is actually the best job and the best craft … there’s nothing that’s a truer window into human emotion than music.”

Rodrigo opens the window of emotion wide for her audience to gain a deeper understanding of her personal connection to the heart-wrenching lyrics in Sour, explaining that “the worst part of being in love is having something to lose.” Before performing “1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back,” Rodrigo vulnerably shares the timeline of writing the song prior to a breakup, placing her fans in her shoes as she performs the emotional ballad.

While often recognized for her more heartfelt and intimate songs, Rodrigo once again showcases her musical versatility through her performances of the more upbeat and angsty tracks on Sour. Her performance of “Good 4 U” is the epitome of the documentary’s capacity to provide a refreshing take on her biggest hits. Accompanied by a variety of string instruments, Rodrigo breaks “Good 4 U” down to its core, removing the punk, aggressive connotations of the track and focusing on its emotional rawness and her vocal range. The performance is as stunning visually as it is vocally — the alluring landscape of Red Rock Canyon State Park, combined with seamless arc shots and videography, deliver a truly immersive experience, offering a unique way of experiencing the song.

Used to transition between segments, the documentary’s aesthetic B-roll and landscape videography beautifully complement Rodrigo’s vocal elegance, but the picture-perfect and vintage appeal of these clips establishes emotional distance between the audience and Rodrigo. Featuring more behind-the-scenes footage and including the less refined drafts of Sour tracks in the early production stages would have elevated “Driving Home 2 U” and provided the audience with an even closer connection to Rodrigo.

Although Rodrigo’s YouTube concert film “Sour Prom” from last year already offered her fans new track arrangements, “Driving Home 2 U” is far from an afterthought or a “Sour Prom” replica intended to re-engage fans. Although strategically released one week prior to the Grammy Awards (where Rodrigo is nominated for seven awards) and one week prior to her first tour leg, the Disney+ documentary provides an exclusive glimpse into the backstory of her journey both alone and with Sour co-writer and producer Daniel Nigro that fans haven’t witnessed before.

“Driving Home 2 U” is the perfect example of the preference for the journey over the destination, as Rodrigo discusses her growth as a singer, songwriter and young adult navigating heartbreak. An invigorating outlook on her debut album, her film allows her audience to relive familiar tracks in a new light. The documentary provides satisfying closure to the era of Rodrigo’s life that rapidly pushed her into stardom, serving as an empowering celebration of the next chapter of Rodrigo’s career.

Contact Connor Lin at [email protected].