Meet Jackie and David Siegel and their eight children; Jackie is a former beauty queen and David is the billionaire 'Time-Share King" of the world, and they are building their dream home - the USA's largest single domestic home - modelled on the Versailles palace in France. And then the economic crisis hits. The Queen of Versailles is their story and how, in the face of the worst economic crisis in 100 years, Jackie, David, their children, maids, dogs, employees and business associates struggle to keep the time-share business afloat and finish their dream-home: Versailles, Florida. The Queen of Versailles is a deft and surprisingly subtle piece of filmmaking; Lauren Greenfield's knowing camera not only interviews but captures private moments in the Siegels' lives, and she constructs metaphors to create portraits of family, friends, colleagues, nannies and children as their rarefied world is turned upside down. The result is a hypnotic film of a family and the demise of the American Dream.
Lorraine Barrett, June Downs, Phillip Froehlich, Marissa Gaspay, Jonquil, Tina Martinez, Virginia Nebab, Wendy Ponce, David Siegel, Jaqueline Siegel, Richard Siegel, Victoria Siegel, Katie Stam
A film that initially sets out to prove F Scott Fitzgerald’s assertion that “the rich are different” Queen of Versailles follows the Siegel family, a billionaire time share businessman and his much younger trophy wife. David and Jackie Siegel, who made their millions during the mortgage and estate craze of the early 2000’s, begin this documentary by commencing construction on their dream home, their own American palace, dubbed by them as “Versailles”.
For the first half of the movie this is little more than horrifying car crash television; an intimate look into the personal lives of the excessively rich as they spend their money on over the top and painfully frivolous items.
The seemingly unshakeable and warm David and his beauty queen wife tour director Lauren Greenfield through their opulent house with it’s own personal ball room, tennis court, 6,000 square foot master bedroom and a “kids wing” complete with stage production facilities, providing the audience a jaw dropping look into what will be, at it’s 90,000 square feet, the largest private residence in America. Yet, in spite of the fantasy world in which this family live you can’t help but feeling quite amiably toward them.
As such the shock turn around about half way through the film holds even more weight when, in 2008 the family’s business finds itself in the midst of the financial collapse. The economic crisis that was caused largely by banks lending irresponsibly leaves a large portion of the Siegel’s Westgate clients defaulting on their payments and finds Siegel’s faced with it’s own loans, mortgages and payments it can not pay.
Construction on Versailles ceases immediately and the excessively lavish palace degrades to an unfinished shell, filled with the stench of faeces and dying exotic animals.
The previously warm David retracts into himself, eating alone in front of the TV and wallowing in fear and pity. Jackie on the other hand, who was originally presented to us as little more than a sex toy and spend-a-holic is forced to find new depths in herself as she attempts to keep her family together and their heads above the crushing financial waves.
Ultimately, despite all my own personally liberal views, I could not help but enjoy this wonderfully character driven documentary, full of humour and heart-warming episodes of affection and hope one can’t help but wonder which part of the Queen of Versailles shows the real American dream.
You rated this film: 4
Alyse Garner - Cinema Paradiso
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