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)
Filmmaker Lauren Greenfield should be commended for her balanced, outrageous and utterly charming documentary that follows the lives of gazillionaire Jackie and David Siegel. Here's a couple living the American dream thanks to the savvy business acumen of David Siegel, the king of time shares. It follows them in their good times and as they tighten their belts to deal with the titanic crash when the financial bubble burst in 2008.
For the average American, the scenario of the economy going south has a sameness that though tragic has a familiarity...job loss, home loss etc. Watching this family teetering on losing it all after spending fortunes on homes, nannies, limos, parties etc. feels voyeuristic yet cathartic as in...well...you can fall down, but what does it feel like when you fall off a mountain? I've read David Siegel has been unhappy with the portrayal of his home and family in the news recently and quite frankly, there's a lack of information at the end of the film. It ends on a note of suspense but I think this is the filmmaker's decision to leave the audience on top of the shifting sands and the realization that you can't take anything for granted in our capitalist society, not even huge economic success. This was the filmmaker's message and the valid right one. We don't know what happens to this family after the film ends...however, I for one ran to my computer to look up any information because I was, well, concerned. I think most who see this film will do as I did.
In other words, it's hard for a viewer of any background to not find this family appealing, even if you want to hate those who tend to excess. (And yes...the largest house in America that David is building is excess, way beyond any shopping foibles Jackie makes.) This is a well made, hugely entertaining documentary. In my opinion, the beauty as well is this family could be any family that's had a huge economic advantage. David and Jackie came from humble beginnings and David built an empire and married his "Queen". This film has now brought him out of perhaps an obscurity he'd prefer, but that's the price of becoming a public figure and I'd hope he'd embrace this and get beyond his personal belief that perceptions about him are impacted negatively by this film...if anything they show him a highly motivated businessman who's taken on a lot in both his business and personal life and his wife comes off as human and charming beneath the Miss America exterior.
This filmmaker has shown strengths and flaws of how money or the lack of it can impact a family and has done so in a highly creative, sensitive way that embraces all this family is. Focusing on a very rich one being victimized by the same powers affecting the rest of us...well...after all, let's face it, aspiring to be able to have no financial worries is the American dream and seeing it potentially ripped away so easily after all that work makes for huge entertainment but is, at the same time, quite sobering. It makes this film a must see for anyone seeking thought provoking commentary on today's economics, the reality that bad times can happen to anyone and is anyone ever really prepared.
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