After the release of her record song “drivers license”, everyone wondered what Olivia Rodrigo’s life was like. And after a year of performing at award shows, meeting his idol Taylor Swift and creating his hit debut album SOUR (2021), this fascination has only grown for his fans. In the Disney+ original Olivia Rodrigo: drive home 2 u (2022), Rodrigo gives fans a long-awaited glimpse into the creative process of making SOUR, the now Grammy-winning album. The documentary-style film follows Rodrigo as she drives from her childhood home in Salt Lake City to Los Angeles, symbolizing her journey from a high school student to a full-time singer-songwriter. As Rodrigo reflects on her work, she effortlessly balances memories of the past year with new reflections in hindsight. The film’s moments of introspection coupled with exciting new renditions of songs allow viewers to understand Rodrigo on a deeper level and make drive home 2 u entertaining from the start.
Rodrigo draws on her identity as both a songwriter and a storyteller to relay the hidden meanings behind her lyrics. In “Driver’s License”, Rodrigo sings, “Today I drove through the suburbs / And imagined I was coming home to you.” Rodrigo explains that this line can be taken literally in that it would physically drive past her ex-boyfriend’s house while she was in the throes of grief. However, Rodrigo offers an alternate take on the lyrics when she reveals that while she was in that relationship, her boyfriend felt like home, so when the relationship ended, Rodrigo wished he could return to feelings of comfort. and security that her ex boyfriend provided. Rodrigo incorporates this phrase, with its double meaning, into the title of his film to represent his new life and the growth it has undergone. California is his new home, so the driving Rodrigo does in this film is a throwback to his new life, full of changes. Rodrigo’s vulnerability as she recounts a painful chapter in her life reveals the nuances of her writing.
The film presents several previously unseen extracts from the SOUR recording sessions between Rodrigo and his producer Dan Nigro, allowing viewers to understand the dynamic between the two co-creators of SOUR. In these clips, Rodrigo and Nigro make it clear they have a good rapport as they crack jokes between recording takes and share each other’s excitement when they come up with a new chord progression for a song. It’s also obvious that this strong foundation of support and trust is essential when creating music. In a clip, Rodrigo expresses his determination to write another upbeat song – which will soon be “brutal” – and for it to be the first song on the album, and Nigro is right next to her as she pleads his cause with his label. Nigro also listens to Rodrigo as she expresses her discomfort with the similarities between “enough for you” and other songs on the album. In response, Nigro offers his honest opinion on the matter, saying “enough for you” complements the other songs while bringing a fresh perspective to the album’s storytelling. Watching the thoughtfulness and care shown by Nigro and Rodrigo as they worked on the album prompts a greater appreciation for the final product.
What elevates Rodrigo from singer to performer is her thematic coherence. In June 2021, Rodrigo embarked on her first attempt at virtual concerts with SOUR Prom, where she performed all the songs on SOUR at a high school prom. She included all the basics of prom, from a marching band on a football field to slow dancing in a gym. In her new venture, Rodrigo stays true to the essence of film, which is the journey, both physical and emotional, that she has undertaken as an artist. Rodrigo makes stops along the way from Utah to California, and at each stop Rodrigo performs a song from his repertoire. Although each stop is scenically distinct, from gas stations to deserts, they are each crucial elements of a West Coast road trip.
The decor is not the only coherent element of the film. Rodrigo’s intention for this film is to blend the perspective she had a year ago with the one she has now. This fusion of perspectives is found not only in his storytelling but also in Rodrigo’s interpretations of his songs. His renditions of “enough for you” and “brutal” sound like the recordings, with the guitar’s melancholy and dramatic instrumental entries, respectively. However, Rodrigo brings new interpretations of “jealousy, jealousy”, “good 4 u” and “traitor”. “jealousy, jealousy” usually starts more muted, with Rodrigo almost whispering the first verse, but in drive home 2 u, Rodrigo begins the song with an electric guitar, giving the song a punk rock feel that sounds like “good 4 u”. However, in this film, “good 4 u” lacks the jitters of the recording but is instead accompanied by strings, allowing Rodrigo to showcase his voice. “Traitor” is emblematic of Rodrigo’s immense talent as she uses a looping device to construct an arrangement made solely by her. She begins with piano chords, then taps her guitar for percussion and strums for additional chords, and finally brings a chorus of her voice. The result is a demonstration of Rodrigo’s incredible musical skills.
The chance to see an artist turn an idea into a finished piece of music is an opportunity few music fans get to see. Thanks to her frank writing, Rodrigo has already built a relationship with people who feel the same emotions as her. Nevertheless, in drive home 2 uRodrigo strengthens this relationship by sharing his creative journey SOUR and offering ruminations on her past, proving she can look back while keeping her eyes on the road ahead.