Review: Olivia Rodrigo’s documentary ‘driving home 2 u’

The film refuses to venture away from the making of ‘SOUR’

IMDB

IMDB

By Nic Roy, Staff Writer

The musical artist documentary has started to become a genre of its own in recent years. In the past two years, Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish and Kanye West have all allowed glimpses into their life that audiences would never have seen otherwise. So, it only makes that arguably the biggest artist in the industry right now gets one of her own. Unfortunately, audiences looking for new insight into the life of Olivia Rodrigo may be disappointed with “Olivia Rodrigo: driving home 2 u (a SOUR film).” The film does feature a lot of driving and a lot of filmed performances of songs off the titular album, but it fails to do complete justice to the most important part of its title.

 

“driving home 2 u” follows Olivia Rodrigo on a road trip from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles, one she would take often when writing her debut album. At stops along the way newly arranged versions of the songs from the smash hit “SOUR” are performed live by Rodrigo and her band. In between those performances, Rodrigo explains her songwriting process for the album along with her shifting feelings towards certain tracks and the emotions that led to their creation.

 

Coming in at only an hour and fifteen minutes, the performances take up the bulk of the documentary’s runtime. While its portrayal of Rodrigo’s personal life may be lacking, its portrayal of her increasingly impressive ability to perform is not. “driving home 2 u” shines more as a concert film with some background footage rather than a full-fledged documentary.

 

As a montage set to “drivers license” shows the viewers, Rodrigo is no stranger to live performance, having previously made appearances on award and late-night shows. This montage shows Rodrigo describing how fast everything changed after she released “drivers license” and includes one of the best scenes in the film. The scene sees Rodrigo performing the hit song at the iHeartRadio Music Festival to a lively crowd that she invites to sing along, and they don’t miss a beat. Mere months after her debut as a serious artist, it’s clear in this moment Rodrigo realizes the impact she has already made in such a short time. But the performances in this montage will end up being the weakest shown in the film as Rodrigo has never sounded better than she does on the new interpretations of the songs of “SOUR.”

 

Aided by the soft, sun-drenched and grainy cinematography of Zoe Simone Yi, Rodrigo pours everything into what some may now see as the definitive versions of these songs. Rodrigo’s vocals have never sounded better and the new instrumentation for each track allows them to shine in ways they never could before. The five-song run of “favorite crime,” “Good 4 U,” “enough for you,” “traitor” and “brutal” is where the film reaches its peak.

 

On “favorite crime” Rodrigo sounds as if she really did just witness the titular crime. The orchestra backing her on “Good 4 U” lets her to play up the theatricality of the spiteful hit song. “enough for you” achieves the lonesome feel it deserves with just Rodrigo, her piano and the woods. “traitor” shines in showing Rodrigo’s ability not just as a vocalist, but as a musical producer whose hands are all over every aspect of the album. Lastly “brutal” amplifies all the best parts of the angsty track as Olivia gets right up in the camera and lists out everything that’s tormenting her before headbanging to the live guitar.

 

With everything else going on, there is simply not enough time left to truly delve into “Olivia Rodrigo, the person,” instead of just “Olivia Rodrigo, the musician behind ‘SOUR.’” The narrative that shows Rodrigo using music to make sense of, and cure her heartbreak provides enough to keep viewers relatively captivated. It also limits the film to being little more than a companion to “SOUR” when it’s clear Rodrigo’s story has so much more to offer than just the making of this one album.

 

Interesting points, like Rodrigo’s feelings of being falsely validated by executives throughout her young acting career where every take was a good take, are touched upon for a minute or two before the film cuts away to an overhead shot of Rodrigo’s car as she travels to the next stop on her trip. This does not make “driving home 2 u” a bad film, it just makes it a slight one. One that may be too small to fully live up to an artist as big as the one Rodrigo has become.

 

Nic Roy can be reached at [email protected]