News & Politics

A Night Out: ‘Thelma & Louise’ at the Phillips Collection

Congresswoman Jane Harman and Senator Susan Collins host a movie screening in conjunction with The Week Magazine.

Senator Susan Collins admires 'Luncheon of the Boating Party' on her way to watch 'Thelma & Louise.' Renoir's painted proved to be more popular among guests than the film.

What: Cocktails, dinner, and a screening of Thelma & Louise, the 1991 Susan Sarandon & Geena Davis Oscar winner about two Arkansas women who shoot a rapist and take off in a turquoise ’66 Thunderbird convertible.

Where: The Phillips Collection, 1600 21st Street, NW. Dinner in the historic Music Room; movie in the new 180-seat auditorium.

When: Wednesday, September 19, 6:30 PM

Who: A large assortment of Washingtonians in dark suits (summer is officially over) gathered for drinks and dinner in the oldest portion of the museum. Phillips board chairman George Vradenburg collaborated with Washington editor Margaret Carlson and her team at The Week Magazine to host the evening in honor of Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine). Also present: the Bradlee family—Ben and Sally Quinn with their son, Quinn. A handful of senators and congressmen conversed with a healthy mix of journalists (Tony Blankley of the Washington Times, Lee Aitken, Mike Allen of Politico), executives (Steven Collick, president and publisher of The Week), politicians, and at least one FBI agent.

Why: The Week periodically asks politicians to screen their favorite films.  When told Thelma & Louise wouldn’t qualify since it isn’t about Washington (never mind Thelma’s wild night with Brad Pitt’s character), Harman responded, “What about women robbers who drive over a cliff isn’t about Washington?” On a more serious note, she said: “No one believes people of different parties can’t be friends in Washington. It makes a huge amount of difference to have a good friend.” Harman, who has a reputation to be “tough as nails” was referring to, among other things, her work with Collins on Homeland Security and intelligence legislation. Collins is known to be the gentler of the two fast friends.

Food: Guests had no excuse for not consuming their five-a-day portion of vegetables by the end of the evening. The well-roasted veggies were plentiful—and a good complement to the grilled-chicken entrée. Three types of mashed potatoes accompanied the platters of peppers, asparagus, tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, and spinach. Dessert was delivered on tiered silver trays. Miniature pecan cinnamon rolls on lollipop sticks were the favorite of the night, followed closely by chocolate brownies and an assortment of small truffles.

Drink: The drink was as plentiful as that depicted in Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party, which the crowd passed on its way to the theater. Guests could visit the bar prior to dinner and were provided with a steady stream of wine throughout the meal.

Scene: The event was focused around the showing of Thelma & Louise, but very few guests stayed to watch the film. Perhaps most guests had already seen it—or maybe they were just  early-to-bed-on-Wednesday-night types. One thing was clear: They enjoyed the meal and pleasant company before the screening. The wood-paneled music room created an intimate setting and tables for ten people at dinner allowed guests to chat comfortably. Carlson delivered a brief introduction and then offered a bottle of wine and a subscription to The Week to the guest who could recall three films besides Thelma & Louise with couples names in the titles. Sally Quinn was quick to answer, listing Bonnie & Clyde, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. When Harry Met Sally and Romeo & Juliet were other titles shouted across the room. Despite such movie hype, no more than 20 or the nearly 100 guests  descended into the new auditorium.

Boldface names: 2.5 (out of 5)
Swankiness: 3 (out of 5)
Food/drink: 3 (out of 5)
Exclusivity: 2.5 (out of 5)
Total Score: 11 (out of 20)

Seating assignments
Phillips Collection theater