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In 2008, the Siegel family was top of the heap with the wealthy and politically influential David Siegel running the successful Westgate Resorts time-share business. To enjoy their good life, he and his engineer turned beauty queen trophy wife, Jackie, were building the largest single family private home in America. Suddenly, both the US economy and Westgate were rocked by the devastating sub-prime mortgage collapse. In the new economic reality with the business teetering on ruin, we follow the Siegels as they struggle to scale down their grotesquely ostentatious lifestyle. For this overprivileged family, accepting that situation proved a dispiriting struggle even as their unfinished dream home became a monument of their superficial values. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
The struggle of very rich people forced to live like sort of rich people
There is a famous, though fictional, exchange in which F. Scott Fitzgerald says "The rich are different from you and I" and Hemingway replies, "Yes, they have more money." That quote suits this film's central character, Jackie, whose tendency towards excess is magnified to an insane level by seemingly limitless wealth.
The movie is about how Jackie, her tycoon husband David and their children and employees deal with a crushing recession that forces them to struggle to live within their means.
Even though they are never broke, they genuinely do struggle because Jackie has satisfied too many whims, filling her house with pets and children and furniture and other things that require servants and lavish spending to keep going.
The movie could easily have caricatured Jackie, whose giant fake breasts and obsessive shopping are qualities that could make her seem white trash, but she comes across as a reasonably intelligent, generally nice person who simply has no concept of "enough." If she were poor she would probably be in debt because she collected memorial plates or something, but because she's rich she has collected everything.
David is less likable, a cold, brusque businessman with a sense of entitlement. As the movie begins he show overwhelming confidence; it's easy to see how the sort of person who can build up a big business is the sort of person who never has insecure thoughts like, "did my wife marry me for my money." David claims in the movie to have personally made GW Bush president, but even though he expresses doubt about whether that was a good idea, because of the wars that resulted, after this movie came out he threatened his employees with job loss if Obama beat Romney, so I'd say he is as awful as he seems in the movie.
One of the best qualities of this movie is how non-judgmental it is. It shows its characters being both thoughtless and thoughtful and it gives them a chance to represent themselves to the camera; it's a movie that has no interest in being a hatchet job. At the same time, it juxtaposes their problems with those of one of their nanny's, whose situation is far sadder; it also has no interest in being a whitewash.
The even-handedness of this film means you are free to see the characters as you like. Some reviewers here reacted very differently from me, seeing David as a hard working businessman stuck with a white trash gold digger, or seeing them both as odious monsters. If you hate the rich, that will probably be your reaction, but if you *are* the rich, you would probably see this as a reasonable portrayal. In fact, if you're rich enough you probably wouldn't see anything wrong with the way they live. (Rich people are different than you and I; they think living like millionaires is normal.)
Overall this is a very engrossing and admirable film that made me feel some sympathy for people who, in the natural order of things, I would consider leeches on the belly of America.
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