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In Olivia Rodrigo’s Disney Plus film “Driving Home 2 U,” the pop star takes a road trip from Salt Lake City, Utah to Malibu, Calif., stopping at old-timey diners, abandoned-looking gas stations and desert prairies along the way. At the premiere for the film on Thursday night in Westwood, Rodrigo’s star-studded friends, members of the press and fans got to mimic that journey.
While picking up tickets at will call, each guest was handed a “Drivers License” of their own in the spirit of Rodrigo’s hit song, and directed toward the Regency Village Theater by enthusiastic event employees dressed in pastel jumpsuits adorned with “Sour” patches. The celeb sightings began just outside of the theater, where Busy Philipps and her child Birdie mingled with “Glee’s” Kevin McHale. Once inside, the Kid Laroi and girlfriend Katarina Deme lounged in the lobby while guests grabbed complimentary popcorn and sodas.
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Before the screening began, president of Disney Branded Television Ayo Davis welcomed the crowd with a short speech. “Here at Disney Branded Television, our mission is to tell stories filled with adventure, magic and heart. And tonight, you’re gonna get that,” Davis said. “This film put Olivia in the driver’s seat, where she shares her inspiring story filled with reflection, joy and hope. I know that you’re going to enjoy it in the same way that I do, and it’s going to resonate around the world globally.”
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As Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman wrote in his review of the film, “Olivia Rodrigo is, among other things, every inch a traditional rock star — and I mean that as an extreme compliment. In ‘Driving Home 2 U,’ just look at how she singes the screen in ‘Jealousy, Jealousy,’ grabbing the mic and singing with scalding punk-grunge moves as her band, composed of five women, plays like a house on fire.”
But the real fun began post-screening, when guests were ushered onto the purple carpet by event employees of Little Cinema, who designed and produced the experience, this time holding maps and declaring, “Where’s the afterparty? I think you’d better follow Route 66!” Sure enough, after pausing for plenty of photo opportunities and passing a pink vintage Ford Bronco, the entry to the afterparty was made clear by a large neon motel sign.
Stepping foot into the party plopped guests straight into some of the scenes from “Driving Home 2 U,” including a diner complete with worn-down red booths and a mini-mart filled with shelves of “Sour”-branded items. Event employees roller skated around the room, occasionally juggling and spinning plates, and at one point, breaking out into a choreographed dance to OK Go’s “Here It Goes Again.” The soundtrack to the party, provided by DJ Tessa, seemed perfectly catered to Rodrigo’s tastes: No Doubt’s “Just a Girl,” The Cardigans’ “Lovefool” and Avril Lavigne’s “My Happy Ending,” to name a few.
At one point, fans crowded an area by the diner installation with a fervor that could only mean Rodrigo herself had made an appearance. However, it soon become apparent that the mad rush was due to free merch, as event employees quickly handed out “Sour” patches, keychains and pink fuzzy dice to as many people as they could. Rodrigo did, eventually, greet fans from behind the roped-off VIP area, taking selfies and accepting gifts with a huge smile. Other celebrities gracing the VIP section included Rodrigo’s best friend Iris Apatow, “Good 4 U” producer Alexander 23 and film special guests Blu DeTiger and Towa Bird.
As the night wound down, it became apparent that Rodrigo wasn’t going to come out again, though fans continued to crowd around the roped-off section. However, the installations themselves provided a great deal of entertainment, giving fans a chance to live in the rugged yet rose-colored aesthetic of the film — and at the very least, snag a “Sour”-themed photo.
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