A documentary that follows a billionaire couple as they begin construction on a mansion inspired by Versailles. During the next two years, their empire, fueled by the real estate bubble and cheap money, falters due to the economic crisis.
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 Queen of Versailles" is an extremely unusual documentary, and I can only assume the histrionic nature of the Siegel family is why the film was ever made. It consists of a camera crew following this family (and in particular Jackie and her husband David) during a period which appears to be about two years to three. I honestly cannot expect most families being willing to have their lives chronicled and disrupted like this--particularly because the second half of the film shows the family at their worst. Odd, that's for sure.
When the film begins, David Siegel is an incredibly wealthy man. He's made his fortune with his vast empire of time share properties and because he is so wealthy, he and his wife are in the process of building a new home they nickname 'Versailles'. It is projected to be the largest single family home in America! During most of this period of the film the camera follows Jackie--a woman who seems to love the attention and who lives a charmed life of luxury.
Part-way through the film, however, comes the market and housing crash of 2008. And with it, disposable incomes have diminished--making selling of time shares almost impossible. Additionally, bank financing, which had previously been easy to obtain by David, suddenly evaporated--leaving his heavily leveraged empire on the brink of collapse. During this period of the film, Jackie has come to accept that she WON'T be moving into the new palace--and they might lose their current home as well. She handles this by shopping.
It's rather hard to adequately rate this film. On one hand, the filmmakers have provided a wholly unique film showing these folks--warts and all. And, it is well constructed and compelling. But on the other hand, there really is nothing to like or admire about these folks. Despite their wealth, they seem spiritually impoverished, self-centered and sad...profoundly sad. In fact, after seeing the film, my entire family felt depressed and insisted we watch something uplifting or fun. Seeing this film is anything but fun and it's not even good for someone wanting to laugh at the Siegels. They aren't funny....just profoundly sad. A very sad marriage, spoiled kids, a love of money, looks and possessions...all quite depressing to witness.
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