Olivia Rodrigo’s documentary is entertainingly sweet


Olivia Reid

UMass Boston student Riley Hammond watches “driving home 2” in the East Residence Hall, March, 30 2022. Photo by Olivia Reid / Mass Media Contributor

Katrina Sanville, Arts Editor

For many music fans, the chance to get an insight into their favorite artists’ writing process and the creation of their favorite albums seems like a nearly impossible dream come true. While pop artists like Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish and Lady Gaga have all gotten documentaries, plus dozens of artists in other genres, many more have yet to get this opportunity. However, this collection has expanded by one more artist, with none other than 2021’s international teenage sensation Olivia Rodrigo joining the ranks.
“Driving Home 2 U” was released on Disney+ on March 25, after a much-anticipated announcement on Feb. 17 via Olivia Rodrigo’s social media accounts. The documentary follows Rodrigo on a road trip across the western United States as she recounts the locations in which she wrote her international sensation of a debut album, “SOUR.” The documentary also includes new versions of the songs from the album, performed by Rodrigo and her band, as well as guest performances.
The film did an excellent job of seamlessly combining behind the scenes content and songs, allowing for plenty of perfectly timed song breaks for viewers to enjoy. The documentary gave a lot of insight into the impacts of becoming an overnight sensation in the music industry, as well as the pressures of being a teenage girl, all the while being an aesthetically beautiful film to view. The filming style, which was gritty and had the look of a film camera at times, perfectly captured Rodrigo’s desired ‘90s grunge aesthetic, and was only elevated by the consistent use of vintage sets such as her car, gas stations, an abandoned drive-in movie theater, diners or hotels.
Stand-out parts of the documentary were, by far, the revamped versions of “jealousy, jealousy” and “brutal,” as well as listening to Rodrigo talk about the pressures she was feeling. The two songs had much more of a pop-punk sound, similar to that of Avril Lavigne or early Paramore, which perfectly fit the messages of the songs and made them sound like they belonged in a coming of age film from the 1990s or early 2000s.
While many cannot relate to having their songs and albums become an overnight sensation and becoming a household name in a matter of days, much of what Rodrigo talked about in the documentary can resonate with them as well. One of the most relatable parts in the film had been when Rodrigo was in the woods, preparing to perform “enough for you,” and she was discussing her history as a child actress. She stated how everyone thought she was a star and perfect in every aspect, and instead of believing it, she turned around and thought the opposite, heavily criticizing everything she did. This is truly a universal experience for many people who were born female or are femme-presenting, even if Rodrigo discusses it a bit differently.
All of these performances truly highlighted Rodrigo’s strength as a singer, which she faced a deal of backlash over in the beginning of her superstardom. “favorite crime” was performed a cappella, then with just the backup of a lone guitar in an amphitheater, allowing Rodrigo’s vocals and the guitar to really shine. “traitor” was performed at a run-down gas station, with Rodrigo as the sole performer, as she layered all of the backing instrumentals to play on loop as she sang. In many of the performances featured in “Driving Home 2 U,” despite the fact that Rodrigo is a bit more detached from the songs than when she wrote—or even recorded—them, the performances felt much more raw and painful, making the connection with the viewer much more personal.
However, a few parts of the documentary fell a bit flat. The film is very focused on Rodrigo—understandably so, as it’s about her and the making of the album—as well as her producer, Dan Nigro. Other than that, “Driving Home 2 U” does not feature anything other than a singular scene of Rodrigo talking to her friend, and fellow musician Jacob Collier. While this scene was enjoyable, it felt a bit out of place in comparison to the rest of the documentary since it was the only scene to feature a person other than Rodrigo or Nigro. This scene could also have captured a similar feeling using a member of Rodrigo’s family, since she focuses on her family’s impact on her and her process throughout the film.
Although some of the performances in the documentary were less than stellar or lackluster, these performances were absolutely canceled out by the incredible ones, and the two new songs performed by Rodrigo. Hearing the lyrics develop and change over the course of the songs being recorded was also particularly interesting to me, especially the lyric change in the album’s first track—however, the last one written and recorded—“brutal.” While the lyric that went into the recorded album was “‘cause who am I, if not exploited?”, the original lyrics Rodrigo and Nigro wrote were “I’m the girl that they exploited.” While both sets of lyrics have similar messages of being overworked and used as props in the entertainment industry from a young age, the original set has a much heavier feeling to it.
Whether you’re a fan of Olivia Rodrigo’s or just casually listen to her songs on the radio, or have an interest in the production in the music industry or not, “Driving Home 2 U” is definitely worth a watch. Its cinematography alone is worth the viewing, but the content is also insightful and fascinating to hear how fame and stress impacted Rodrigo. This can be incredibly relatable to young adult and teenage viewers, as well as Rodrigo’s young fanbase. “Driving Home 2 U” is now streaming on Disney+, and an absolute treat to watch.