‘driving home 2 u’ reviewed: A perfect pairing for Olivia Rodrigo

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Via Disney+

If you like Rodrigo and her music, “driving home 2 u” is a thoroughly enjoyable and fascinating addendum to “SOUR.”

By Matthew Kim, Los Altos High School

“driving home 2 u” opens by turning back the clock: the film’s subject, singer and actress Olivia Rodrigo, escaping from her sudden stardom to take a road trip down memory lane from Salt Lake City, Utah to Los Angeles, Calif. The journey is a familiar one, the same one she made during the creation of her debut album “SOUR,” and it serves as a vehicle for Rodrigo’s reminiscence over the album. Coupled with reimaginings of the album’s music and detailed backstories on her songs, “driving home 2 u” is a must-watch for Rodrigo fans. The film expands on “SOUR” satisfyingly, even if the film isn’t as cohesive or detailed as some may prefer.

The aforementioned road trip is the “glue” of the film, tying discrete song analyses together along a journey through remote gas stations, empty hotels and parks. Despite its attempts at cohesion, though, the trip often feels like an excuse for aesthetic settings more than anything. Drone shots of an antiquated Jeep, interviews in perfectly organized, empty diners and performances in Red Rock Canyon State Park feel more planned than spontaneous. Still, they provide immaculate backdrops for retrospection.

“driving home 2 u” spends much of its time on the road deconstructing the 11 tracks on “SOUR” and their histories. Rather than traversing the songs in album order, the film moves chronologically, organized in the sequence that Rodrigo wrote the tracks in. Each song on “SOUR” gets a few minutes of description, although much of that time is spent filling in the already implied backstory of a failed romantic relationship rather than adding deeper meaning.

However, the particular details of Rodrigo’s experiences with heartbreak (a suspected relationship between Rodrigo and actor Joshua Bassett has been the subject of mass speculation) are carefully avoided. Instead, the film contemplates Rodrigo’s feelings during the songwriting process, interspersing monologues with recordings documenting the album’s production. Such clips depicting the creation process, from producer Dan Nigro ad-libbing the riff on “brutal” to Rodrigo recording “hope ur ok” in a studio, immerse the listener in the album’s formulation. Between Rodrigo’s introspection and scenes depicting the creation of the album, the film adds to and magnifies every track on “SOUR,” Billboard-charting singles and lesser-known tracks alike.

The main focal point of “driving home 2 u,” however, are the song performances, all of which are reimagined from their studio versions on “SOUR.” For example, “jealousy, jealousy” gains a stronger 2000s pop punk flair, and, on “traitor,” Rodrigo gradually orchestrates the backing track live before the song fully kicks in. The film’s transformations of every “SOUR” track provide a unique spin on the songs, even if many of these versions of the tracks couldn’t have made it onto an album version — like “good 4 u” with nothing but a string orchestra.

“driving home 2 u” is a worthy compliment to “SOUR,” a reflection on and reimagination of Rodrigo’s debut album that strengthens it. Still, the film isn’t more than the sum of its parts. It often feels more akin to reading a song-by-song interview of Rodrigo. Regardless, the movie’s deconstruction of every song provides a new dimension to the album, and gives viewers a new appreciation of it. If you like Rodrigo and her music, “driving home 2 u” is a thoroughly enjoyable and fascinating addendum to “SOUR.”

This story was originally published on The Talon on April 1, 2022.