At the start of her new documentary film, Olivia Rodrigo asks: “How would I describe this chapter of my life?” We then get a snapshot of the whirlwind she has been living in for the past 14 months: Rodrigo shrieking in excitement as her epic breakup anthem ‘Drivers License’ plays on the radio, her being interviewed by The New York Times, magazine covers and a picture of her with the President of the United States; music videos, awards ceremonies and photoshoots.
Said chapter of Rodrigo’s life has seen the 19-year-old level up from Disney Channel star to Grammy-nominated household name; ‘Driving Home 2 U (A Sour Film)’ unpicks this swift rise to fame. The film follows Rodrigo on a road trip from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles, mirroring the way her debut album ‘Sour’ was written between the two cities. Along the way we’re taken behind the scenes on the making of ‘Sour’ with never-seen-before studio footage and brought further into Rodrigo’s musical world with revamped live performances.
Early on we’re introduced to ‘Sour’ producer Dan Nigro, who rides shotgun throughout, with much of the film showing the duo creating the album in the studio. It’s an intriguing insight into the process, as they work through new songs and wrangle the album into shape, giving further context to the songs that have soared up the charts around the world.
These moments are intercut with new interviews in which Rodrigo dissects what it was like navigating this chapter in her life. It’s at time earnest: “There’s nothing that connects people and there’s nothing that’s like a truer window into the human emotion than music,” she says of the songwriting process. And yet, this honesty is coupled with refreshing self-awareness, as Rodrigo reveals: “You want people to look at you for your talent and skill, and you’re also, you know, 18 and I want people to think I’m pretty and cool and funny or whatever.” Later she’s joined by English musician Jacob Collier; as they sit on the hood of a car in a desert, she confides: “I’m terrified that since I’m not going to be devastated for the rest of my life, I’m no longer going to be able to make a good album.”
The film is gorgeously shot, with stunning drone footage showing off the road trip scenery, and carefully curated locations for each of the performances. ‘Deja Vu’ is performed at a highway diner, ‘Happier’ in a half-empty house surrounded by boxes, and ‘Enough or You’ in a forest. The songs undergo musical makeovers, too: ‘Jealousy, Jealousy’, performed in an underpass, is transformed into a pit-opening pop-punk anthem, while ‘Good 4 U’ gets a cinematic string accompaniment that is a highlight of the film.
‘Driving Home 2 U (A Sour Film)’ is an honest look under the hood of ‘Sour’, as well as the past year of Rodrigo’s life. Peel away the astonishing cinematography and megawatt live performances, and it’s a frank account of the artist’s rapid ascension, as she navigates the scrutiny that comes with being a young woman in the public eye. If this is chapter one of Rodrigo’s story, it’ll be fascinating to see what comes next.
March 21, 2022 - 33