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8/10
The filmmaker did not aim to exploit these classless, tasteless billionaires; they took care of that themselves
chaz-284 August 2012
Schadenfreude - pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. The entire audience at the screening of The Queen of Versailles experienced this feeling about the Siegel family; they are truly atrocious people. Two years ago, David and Jackie Siegel were billionaires. They had planes, Rolls Royces, multiple nannies for their seven kids, hosted parties for the Miss America pageant while David flirted with the contestants, and sat on a golden throne in their Orlando house during interviews for this documentary. They also began construction on a mansion called Versailles, a project which would become the largest house in the entire United States.

It appears the filmmakers wanted to document the rise of this monstrosity of a house and display the lifestyle of the obscenely rich. Even better, these rich people liked to flaunt in front of the camera, not enjoy their splendor in private ala Bill Gates. David Siegel proudly claims he is individually responsible for George W. Bush winning the state of Florida and therefore the presidency; however, he chuckles that what he did was not exactly legal. Oh yes, schadenfreude. David called himself the 'King of Time Shares'. He built 28 resorts and an enormous building on the Vegas strip, parceled them up, and sold them 52 different times to vacationers. Then, in what must have exceeded all of the filmmakers' expectations, the recession hit and everybody in the country stopped buying time shares.

The Siegels were billionaires and yet, they had no savings. They paid cash for the Versailles house and only later put a mortgage on it because that meant millions more in ready, liquid money. They put nothing away for college funds for their kids. In fact, Jackie stares at the camera exclaiming her children might actually have to go to college now. The Siegels can no longer keep up with the Versailles mortgage payments and put it up for sale unfinished for $75 million. The housing market just crashed, tens of thousands of families are entering foreclosure, including Jackie's best friend, and the Siegels are trying to move a $75 million dollar mistake. The realtors may not be quite up to the task of marketing the house since one of the agents exclaims how unique Versailles (pronouncing it Versize) is.

Nobody is buying time shares, therefore, there is no money coming in to the company, and David lays off 7,000 employees. He also fires 19 household servants. Dogs run around crapping all over the house and nobody picks it up. A lizard dies of lack of food and water, a fish floats at the top of its filthy tank, and one of the kids exclaims, "I didn't know we even had a lizard." Don't worry, Jackie still compulsively shops to add to the ridiculous piles of 'stuff' that the kids do not even know they have. She also maintains her plastic surgery regimen. Jackie's chest has enjoyed being a a third character in this whole mess.

Other than the Michael Moore type of documentaries which have a stated agenda, filmmakers are thought to be neutral arbiters. They film the action, interview the subjects, and edit it in a way fair to all the players. However, no matter how one edits the footage, the Siegels are going to come off looking like some very horrible people. David is 30 years Jackie's senior and now that their funds are rapidly dwindling away, he is starting to get tired of his third wife. He hides in his office (a couch in front of a flat screen surrounded by papers and food scraps) to enjoy being away from the chaos which his house has become.

You will not envy the Siegels. They still have more money than you do, but you would never switch places with them. I walked out of the theater with a new appreciation for my situation in life knowing that most of us are normal folks going about our business and enjoy time with our family and friends. The fact that there are folks like the Siegels out there, who by the way are shocked a bank bailout did not filter down to them, makes you shake your head in shame of the human race.
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8/10
A completely revolting couple
Nick Duretta8 August 2012
I knew the back story to "Queen of Versailles" before I saw it, but I wasn't prepared for the extreme revulsion I felt for these characters, particularly David Segal. These folks are poster children for the worst extremes of our materialistic, narcissistic culture. Their values are money, ostentation, self-aggrandizement, acquisition and mindless hedonism. They are venomous leeches on society.

Yet I felt pity for them as well, particularly Jackie. She's something of an enigma. She boasts about getting an engineering degree so she wouldn't have to work as someone's assistant, yet she mostly devotes herself to keeping young-looking and voluptuous (those breasts of hers deserve some sort of special effects award) so she can snag and keep a rich hubby. As her world starts to fall apart around her, she begins to have some insights about what life is really about (not building the world's biggest house), yet still can't abandon her out-of-control shopping sprees or torturous visits to the beauty clinic.

The children, also, seem to be far more aware than their parents of the emptiness and ridiculousness of their lifestyle.

Fortunately, I saw very little of myself in this abhorrent couple, but I did see some similarities to friends and family. Everyone is susceptible to greed and an inflated sense of self. This film shows what happens when that proceeds unchecked and fueled by obscene wealth.
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The struggle of very rich people forced to live like sort of rich people
Charles Herold (cherold)2 January 2013
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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8/10
The American Dream in All its Wretched Excess
Chris_Pandolfi20 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
There's a surprisingly complex scene in "The Queen of Versailles," Lauren Greenfield's newest documentary, in which the subject, Jackie Siegel, is travelling to Binghampton, New York to visit the neighborhood in which she grew up. After getting off the airplane and making a stop in Elmira, she and her children find themselves at a Hertz Rent-a-Car counter. First, she explains to the clerk that flying commercial for the first time was bizarre. Second, she asks the clerk for the name of her driver. The clerk can only stare at her in stunned disbelief. We're left wonder: Has Ms. Siegel truly been so privileged as to genuinely expect a driver as part of a rental car, or is she well aware of how the Hertz system actually works and is merely performing for the camera, knowing full well that the main focus of the documentary is her?

Jackie's life has been nothing if not a climb up the social ladder, during which she had earned a bachelor's degree in computer engineering technology, worked at Citigroup, was briefly in a relationship with Donald Trump, and had been a model, her efforts rewarded in 1993 when she was crowned Mrs. Florida. In 1996, at the age of thirty, she met sixty-year-old David Siegel, a real estate broker who amassed billions after buying an eighty-acre plot of orange groves in Orlando and turning it into Westgate, a private time-share resort that, since its inception, has expanded to twenty-seven other locations, including Las Vegas. David and Jackie married in 2000, would over the next nine years have eight children (including an adopted niece), and in 2006 oversaw the start of the construction of their 90,000 square-foot Orlando dream home.

They have dubbed it Versailles, and true to its name, it's modeled after the famous French château. Standing at nearly seventy feet tall, the incomplete palace sits on ten acres of lakefront property. The house itself consumes an entire acre. When completed, it will have thirteen bedrooms, twenty-two bathrooms, nine kitchens, a bowling alley, a roller-skating rink, an arcade, an indoor swimming pool, a fitness center, a spa, and staff quarters. The kids will have an entire wing made just for them, complete with a living room, a computer center, and a movie theater. The adults will have a theater of their own, as well. Jackie takes Greenfield on a tour of the grand ballroom, which, even in its unfinished state, is a sight to behold. Two staircases sweep down on either end of the 120-foot long, sixty-foot-wide room, which has French balconies and a six-foot-high glass dome built into the ceiling.

Construction had to be halted in 2009 due to the faltering financing for Westgate, a direct result of the 2008 economic collapse. Versailles, which the banks are threatening to foreclose on, sits only 60% complete, with no interior walls, no plumbing, and no electricity. The 200 crates of Italian marble they had imported specifically for this project lies unused in the twenty-car garage. As for the Siegels, with David's company in upheaval and his personal fortune deeply affected (he suddenly found himself around $1.2 billion in debt with no real savings), he and his family moved indefinitely into the 27,000 square- foot home intended to be a temporary residence until Versailles' completion. By most standards, that would be more than an adequate amount of space for a family of ten. For the Siegels, Jackie's extravagant shopping has left the house in a state of clutter.

"The Queen of Versailles" is nothing if not a cautionary tale of wretched excess, fueled by the relentless yet hollow pursuit of the American Dream. We now live in a time when the country's population has been categorized into one of two percentiles; here is a profile of two proud one-percenters, one of whom defines herself by living beyond her means. We see her buying shopping carts full of board games from Wal- Mart and turning them into Christmas gifts. We see that she still has a limo driver, who in one scene takes her to McDonald's, and maids from the Philippines, one of whom lives rather comfortably in the children's former playpen and laments about the family she never gets to visit. We see one of Jackie's dead pet dogs on display in a glass case, having been worked on by a taxidermist. We see entitlement and irresponsibility in her niece, whose excuse for letting her pet lizard die was not being driven to a pet store.

"The Queen of Versailles" was originally marketed as a "rags to riches to rags story," prompting David to sue Greenfield and the Sundance Institute for defamation. He even says near the end of the film that he doesn't want his company to be portrayed as going completely under. Ultimately, Jackie attended the premiere at the Sundance Film Festival as if she were a celebrity and is said to have enjoyed it. But according to an interview with Susan Berfield of Businessweek.com, she's also baffled by the way her lifestyle is criticized. "You would think they would be happy for someone living the American Dream," she said. "Why is everyone so concerned about how we spend our money? We give a lot to charity. We keep the economy going." David adds his two cents: "There's always been rich and poor, the 1 percent and the 99 percent. It's like a prison. If you only have prisoners and no guards, you'd have chaos." Now there's something to mull over.

-- Chris Pandolfi (www.atatheaternearyou.net)
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8/10
The Empty Rich and Their Cluttered Life
nyshrink19 December 2012
This movie was planned to be a documentary about the biggest house in America, but after the crash of 2008 occurred shortly after filming began, the director turned it into a story of the economic collapse. We're familiar with the stories of the many ordinary people who lost their jobs in 2008-09; this film is a story of people who despite being very rich--at least on paper--were also victims although perhaps mostly of their own bad judgment. I expected to hate the Siegels, but I did not. Although they're not people with whom I would want to spend personal time, they come across as merely shallow, immature and maybe even naive people who became addicted to money and spending and suffered the consequences.

The film shows laughable yet slightly shocking scenes of people who equate stuff with happiness and excess with success. "Versailles" is never finished (the house plays a bit part in the movie) but the home they live in is ridiculous in its own way: It's luxurious, but also filthy. Unhousebroken dogs poop all over the place, every room is cluttered, stuff spills out of closets, one daughter is obese and it's obvious the hired help can't keep up.

The movie takes time to give personal histories of both Mr. and Mrs. Siegel and it's easy to see how they turned out the way they did: Mr. Siegel's parents were gamblers, and although they lost their money in Las Vegas and their son became rich, the movie shows how really he is a gambler and big spender as well. Mrs. Siegel is not merely a "trophy wife" although her sexist husband sees her that way; she has an engineering degree and made money as a model before her marriage. Despite her shopping addiction, disorganization and extremely poor housekeeping skills, it's clear she's a savvy survivor who has a tendency to get what she wants. The movie also features some interviews with other family members including two teenage daughters. Their comments are extremely honest, both about their parents and about wealth. The heartbreaking interview, however, is with the Filipina nanny. In her brief tale, she gives a glimpse into Third World poverty that shows how lucky the Siegels really are.

From what I've read the Siegels are back on their feet; like most rich people, they did not suffer in the way that most of us have suffered. Yet it is clear that they did suffer. The film is not judgmental and I have to give the Siegels credit for allowing the filmmaker to film intimate details of their life, giving us a glimpse into the lives of people who are addicted to money and spending. In the end you'll have to judge for yourself if you envy or pity the Siegels. My own take was that their view of life is so foreign to mine that what they would call happiness I would only call boredom.
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9/10
Absolute Madness
aharmas6 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
You couldn't write a screenplay like this if you tried. Sometimes the best source of drama is reality itself, and "The Queen of Versailles" offers plenty of interesting odd situations. Some of the scenes can only be classified as absurd, as we can only sit there and witness the extravagant maneuvers made by the Siegel family.

I went in to see how anyone could come up with rather impractical idea of "replicating", in a loose way, Versailles in America. The director gives us a good introduction where we can imagine how these wealthy people can believe such plans are possible. We learn about their backgrounds, and how Mr. Siegel seems to have plenty of capital to treat himself to that real estate dream. Along comes his third Mrs., and she's a more interesting woman than I thought she could be. She appears intelligent, loving, a bit lost in her dream world as she takes cares of her personal whims and manages to at least be aware of her family. She seems to be honest about who she was, who she is, and we even believe she hasn't lost her connections to what really matters. The problem is she doesn't truly understand reality changes around her until it is a bit too late.

There are plenty of memorable scenes in the film, and it is the intimate moments inside their home that make us notice and care about what is happening to them. At first we are voyeurs because these are real people, and in an era of "reality TV", we want to see how crazy and extravagant this family is. As the film progresses, we are see that not everyone here is as disconnected as the Mrs. We get testimony from the nannies who can see this is not a happy household. There is an army of employees and nannies, so we know communication is broken. We hear about a child who prefers to sleep with a person who gives him the attention his parents are not providing. We know that when these servants disappear, there will be some critical exchanges between a few of the members of the family.

It is after the financial crisis begins and deepens that we start being enveloped by the darkness that closes in around the household. We see how their resources become limited and disappear, and some of the scenes are hilarious. You can't help but chuckle as the inquires about the drivers at the car rental place, and the discovery of the unattended pets is horrible but still manages to elicit a laugh because it is so unbelievable.

The film offers some hard truths many won't like to hear, and it might be more than a journey through the lives of a wealthy family that has its rude awakening. The documentary crew shows us the connection of these people to mere mortals like us, and it is there when it becomes chilling because if it happens to them, it might also happen to anyone.

"Versailles" deserves a viewing since it is a reflection of the times, and truth might not always be pretty.
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7/10
A long and unpleasant journey...
MartinHafer2 June 2013
"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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An American Nightmare
jdesando7 August 2012
As taken as I was with the lessons in Margin Call, a story about a Lehman Bros.-like mortgage brokerage firm in the beginning of the 2008 financial crisis, The Queen of Versailles is more powerful. And it's not about brokers—it's about a family that accepts all that cheap money, buys blindly, and declines maybe even more than the rest of us because it spends more than a small nation could. It's not an American dream; it's a nightmare.

At the beginning of this disturbing documentary, David Siegel owns Westgate Resorts, one of the world's largest timeshare companies. Worth billions, he spends those billions freely, aided by his clueless trophy wife, blonde and buxom beauty-contestant Jackie, who helps him plan the largest single-family home in the USA: 90,000 square feet of Versailles palace imitation—"kitsch" is perhaps the best descriptor.

Slowly director Lauren Greenfield lets the nice David talk about their fortune and the home. At the same time, Jackie has eight children, stating that without nannies she would never have that many. When the market tumbles, the Segals face not finishing their home and severely reducing their lifestyle, but not Jackie's spending or her nannies.

As in any good documentary, the players do all the heavy satirical lifting, in this case Jackie redefines white trash and the much older David clarifies the role men play who indulge their wives as long as they are hot and attentive. "Foolish old man" is an apt cliché for a decent guy who was smart enough to make billions, but not smart enough to avoid cheap money (which his timeshare sales staff sold in abundance itself to reckless, unsophisticated buyers—a sad irony for all involved) and a cheap wife.

As the documentary glides inexorably to its conclusion, we are left with the impression of a decent man who couldn't control his appetites and a Pollyanna wife who couldn't control her spending. Be warned, this is not Inside Job, an insightful documentary about how all of us contributed to the crash; it is rather a depressing insider look at how so many bought into the cheap money trap and could not get out.

My radio co-host and I had to take a half hour to detox from this misery before we could record our show in at least a minimal upbeat manner. The Queen of Versailles is unremittingly gloomy probably because a part of us all is hidden amongst that greed. And yet, it is in the best documentary tradition: truth will out.
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8/10
A riches to rags tale with the intimate glimpse into the wealthy lives of David and Jackie Siegel.
SLUGMagazineFilms21 January 2012
Rather than going the been-there-done-that route of a rags to riches story, director Lauren Greenfield accidentally (yet exquisitely) delivers a riches to rags tale with the intimate glimpse into the wealthy lives of David and Jackie Siegel. As the president and CEO of the largest timeshare corporation in the country, David is the epitome of the American dream, and his beauty pageant/trophy wife is living proof. While the film's initial purpose was to document the development of their 90,000 sq. ft. home (the largest in America), once the financial crisis of 2008 impacted banks globally, David soon finds his entire empire in jeopardy. Greenfield captures the highs and lows of being in the top 1%, even though most of the bottom 99% would love to give it a shot no matter the repercussions. (I always did want an ice rink in my home.) It's fascinating to watch the discourse between Mr. & Mrs. Siegel, two individuals who came from poverty, but have different interpretations of the importance of life. Watching the chaotic roller-coaster that is Jackie Siegel allows audiences the chance to laugh at the elite. At one moment you emphasize with the princess billionaire with the heart of gold, but once she attempts to classify herself as the "average" person, one can only watch with resentment. Either way, Greenfield, offers a crowd-pleasing documentary that leaves a lasting impression on audiences.
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10/10
Mind Blowing and Mesmerizing Documentary
Larry Silverstein18 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I found this documentary, directed by Lauren Greenfield, to be mind blowing and mesmerizing. Mostly, I was sitting and watching the DVD and shaking my head wondering can this get any more bizarre--and it does.

This is the story of Jacqueline and David Siegel living in a 17 bathroom house, in the Orlando area, with 8 children and many pets. She is a former model, extremely well endowed physically, and Mrs. America married to a timeshare conglomerate mogul(Westgate Resorts)who built his company into the largest timeshare resort company in the world. She is 30 years his junior.

Of course all of this is prior to the Great Recession of 2008. They are so filthy rich that they decide they need a 30 bathroom house patterned after the Versailles Palace, in France, and when completed will be the largest single family home in America.

But,alas, the Great Recession comes upon us and the bottom falls out of the timeshare market. Things begin to go south for the Siegels. The banks, who when times were good, were falling all over themselves to give Siegel cheap money. But now, as Jacqueline puts it they are like vultures waiting for the carcass to die so they can sweep in and pick it apart. Seven thousand workers of the timeshare company are laid off 2 days before Thannksgiving. Foreclosure of their properties are certainly looming, including the Versailles replica.

Jacqueline, claiming she's not been told about the extent of the financial problems seems to continue to live in this fantasy world. She'll start shopping at Wal_Mart but will buy shopping carts full of items, admitting she is compulsive. She doesn't seem like a bad person, and claims she's worked in menial jobs in her life, and knows what it's like to be poor.

To me, she is the heart of the film. It's totally fascinating to watch her try and cope in her own way with what's happening. While on the other hand David(her husband) is clearly the cold calculating businessman, showing the strain of his empire crumbling around him.

I believe if you take the approach that you hate these people who have had so much compared to the average person, like myself, and 99.9% of the populace as well, then this film will not be enjoyable. But if, you can just watch it without judgments, as it unfolds, it can be as good as any Shakespearian tragedy. I was telling myself a great deal of the time "I don't believe this", and shaking my head in disbelief.

I don't believe you have seen anything like it in the past or will in the future. It is unique, in my opinion.
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9/10
Let them eat Cake!
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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3/10
Average, semi-dysfunctional people just like everybody else, but with a lot more means
Samdalsh2 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I "officially" rated this movie low after reading so many highly-scored reviews that included all sorts of carping about these supposedly bad and disgusting people. My low score continues this non-sequitur as a contrarian protest to those judgments. I actually loved seeing regular average, run-of-the-mill, semi-dysfunctional people do what regular average, run-of-the-mill, semi-dysfunctional people do: buy happiness with stuff. In short I absolutely loved the film because 3/4 of America would fill giant houses with cheap crap expensive decor if provided the same means of extravagance.

Bottom line is this: if these people were average (i.e. not wealthy), there would be nothing to write about or to see here, folks. This film shows how personal dysfunction magnifies the excesses of wealth. After all, having wealth isn't a problem until wealth (or just the same, acute lack of it) has you. I hope this mom gets a grip on boundaries and core worth and value or these kids are gonna end up having a very difficult transition to real world adulthood. Other than that and the bad-ass dad's workaholism, these people seem pretty normal to me ("normal" meaning "somewhat dysfunctional" just like the rest of us schmucks without a gazillion dollars).

The most interesting aspect of this movie is to see this couple and family in the midst of identity crisis. As long as there's plenty of wealth, there is no crisis (hence the problem). For example, one really wonders why the mom bought that 100th kid bike at the supermarket. You later see the garage packed full of kids bikes and can't help but to realize that neither the mom's or dad's "relationship tool bag" is well stocked if yet another kid bike is really the answer to what woes.

On the other hand, what family of 8 or 10 people, mostly children, doesn't have its fair share of child dereliction going on if the mom is a major enabler, or narcissist, or whatever her deal is? Along that line, I was actually surprised to see no shoes flushed down toilets or kid pranks gone too far. Dead lizard caused by a teen going through a snarky, spoiled phase in which she is too lazy or self-absorbed to water it? Meh, seems pretty normal. Maybe not every teen has let a hundred dollar lizard die of thirst, but hey, not every teen has had a hundred dollar lizard.

Also, I thoroughly salute the people who made this film. It ended up being much better than if financial crisis hadn't hit. Guys like this dad will end up back on top, leaving eat-the-rich carpers of this world to hate away. People who think rich people should exhibit admirable qualities and good sense are only giving themselves an excuse to sit on the sidelines of life, waiting for the never-to-come day that they themselves are perfect and worthy and deserving enough for such wealth. Sure these people have their issues, but so does everybody else, and that's what I love about this film.
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9/10
A nightmare
benvolio114 December 2012
The documentary is great.... It makes the anatomy of the dominating American value : money = value of man. And what is extraordinary in this film is that it shows the exact opposite. All these people are just ghosts. They look vulgar, they think vulgar, they speak vulgar, they live in vulgarity. They look like poor actors in a bad film.......... their lives and the places they live in are a complete nightmare. I tried to find where is the humanity, the sincerity in these people (except the Philippine nanny)................ They are just utter rubbish. They actually belong to Disney and the nightmarish city of Las Vegas !!
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8/10
Good Film, Sad Dysfunctional People
Cy Borg22 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Where to start...watching the rampant consumerism and lack of care given to all the junk they acquire made me sad. The part of the movie that bothered me the most was a small scene where Jacquie finds her daughter's pet Iguana dead of starvation. After the maids are fired, the kids no longer bother to care for their pets. It's brushed off as if it's nothing.

Jacquie (Wife #3) is a shopaholic with ridiculously oversized fake breasts who seems a bit ditzy. She has a engineering degree but seems to have given up her smart, determined self from years past to be arm candy to a man 30 years her senior (David) who has a affinity for beauty pageant winners. Once the economy starts to affect their lifestyle and they are on the verge of bankruptcy things get ugly - you can see the resentment he has towards his wife. The stress of imminent financial ruin should make him appreciate his family more, but instead it causes him to retreat and ignore his family. At one point David refers to Jacquie as an old hag (mean!) The slam doesn't even register with her - she is kind of living in her own little fantasy world and she rationalizes he is bad behavior saying he is just stressed. She spends gobs of money on clothing ( designed to showcase her comically large breast implants), shoes, and handbags and plastic surgery to keep herself "hot" for her geriatric not so good -looking ( but rich!) husband. While she seems generally clueless about things you sense she is probably a person who is good on the inside, but lacks discipline and self-awareness and gets validation based on how she looks. David on the other hand becomes mean and spiteful towards his family. The true character of a person comes out when they are stressed and David shows an ugly side.

I think the film gave a fairly honest portrayal of the family and the Seigals relationship whether they wanted it to or not. There may of been a few disingenuous scenes (e.g. Where Jacquie pretends to think a chauffeur comes with the car they are renting from Hertz,) but overall the film is well done and compelling viewing. My fantasy ending is for Jacquie to dump her loser husband, get a real career with her engineering degree and start to parent her kids in a responsible way. Ain't gonna happen, because I hear she is signing up to do a reality show. Please, no mas!
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6/10
Fading of a fascinating pair
evening125 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The most amazing thing about this documentary is that the principals, David and Jaqueline Siegel, allowed so much access into their homes and unraveling lives.

When the film begins, the May-December pair is sitting on top of the world -- she quite beautiful and happily managing a brood of eight children, he building a palace with a view of Disney World's fireworks that would be the biggest house in the world. He still seems to appreciate his hyper-sexy wife, who boasts obvious breast implants that she displays in clingy, low-cut dresses.

By the end of the film, David Siegel is looking much worse for the wear. He sits alone in a disheveled home office, eating dinner from a tray, griping about petty wastes of money, such as when a family member leaves a door ajar. Due to crises in the economy, he has lost a lot of his fortune and is working to stave off bank creditors and foreclosure. This saturnine figure who freely admits he cannot separate business from family won't even give his wife a kiss.

The film paints a highly poignant portrait of Jackie, who says she married a man 30 years her senior strictly for love. Apparently suffering from a need to shop compulsively, despite her family's financial woes, she is often shown gamely approaching her husband and trying to humor him or make a vain stab at chat.

A great sense of sadness seems to pervade this clan, whose children nevertheless appear to have come through it all pretty well.

One feels for the tunnel-visioned David and hopes that Jackie will somehow find some peace.
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8/10
Good documentary about despicable peep
mailjohnw15 April 2013
You have to laff when the "Queen"--often seemingly desperate to kiss her AH husband into some sort of affectionate submission (she always fails to receive anything other than an aggressively polite peck, which seems more like a 'kiss-off')-- the "Queen" plays the victim card, due to the financial upheaval in 2008. She's truly sickening, despite her "humble" roots. Were these pigs ever in real jeopardy? Well, their "conspicuous consumption, had to be "downsized" from poisonous excess to sheer madness, and meanwhile, the wonderful housekeeper has suffered and struggled to meet her own dreams--and you get the feeling she's cast her lot in with the wrong people. Fascinating and disgusting, see it.
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5/10
Millions for marble yet no money for college funds? What?!
D A20 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The documentary does a great job of showcasing the greed and shallowness of this family.

They spent millions on marble for their tacky mansion in the swamps of FLA, yet they don't have enough money to send their kids to college when financial issues hit. How could they let that happen? I also think that they should be cited for animal abuse since they lightheartedly let a pet lizard starve to death in one of their disgusting hoarder rooms. They are hoarders. With all that money, they should have hired a professional organizer. It just goes to show that money doesn't buy class or smarts. On top of it, the old husband insults his own client base during the documentary..real smart.
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7/10
American nightmare
jc-osms7 February 2013
I normally run a mile from real-life documentaries like this but ghoulishly fascinated by the story-line here, I found myself rubber-necking this car-crash of a family saga from start to finish. An allegory of the burst bubble of the latter-day "greed is good" dynasty, we follow the progress of billionaire David Siegel's self-confessed riches to rags story as he and his sprawling, dysfunctional family struggle to adjust to rain after the sunshine years as his billion-dollar timeshare empire crumbles as the credit crunch bites.

So, instead of the no doubt originally intended homage to Mammon, as Siegel and his plastic, boob-enhanced ex-Mrs America "trophy-wife" (named as such by her own daughter!) airily plan to build the biggest private house in America (going from a mere 18 to 30 bathrooms in the process), we get a much darker tale, as Siegel retreats away in his dressing-gown from his young family into his den, desperately making calls which he hopes will return his opulent lifestyle to him and his family.

His wife, Jacqueline, the erstwhile title character of the movie is similarly seen changing from boasting about wearing ostrich-feather Gucci pants to suffering her husband's testiness over leaving too many house-lights on, while still undergoing her periodic face-peel and Botox injections, hardening her face into a mask, ill-serving the emotional traumas she's obviously experiencing.

As a modern-day morality tale on the old maxim of be careful what you wish for, it could hardly be bettered as not one of "David's Friends", prominently pictured in his household come to his rescue as his business empire crumbles and leaves his prestigious West Gates luxury building in Las Vegas as another white elephant totem to excess.

As usual with American documentaries like this, it's hard to take your eyes off the mess you're witnessing. The film doesn't seek to pity the family's plight but does inadvertently lampoon its subject although it has to be said most of the damage is self-inflicted.

Proof, if it were still needed, that pride surely comes before a fall, although here the fall is cliff-sized.
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10/10
American Dream Indeed!
damie7726 April 2012
Lauren Greenfield's documentary "Queen of Versailles" is beautiful on many levels. I have not seen a movie with such epic proportion lessons in a while. At the end of the day it affirms my belief, American dream is just that-"A Dream". What happens when you wake up?

The themes of Love, riches, fame,greed,beauty, family,choices,economic crisis and business failure makes it a viewers delight. Viewers are welcomed into billionaires Jackie and David's rags-to-riches story only as thing progress it turns out to be riches-to-rags.

I almost dismissed the movie because I thought it will be too much like an episode of reality TV but it surpassed my expectation. The situation was real and so was the pain for the Siegel's.
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Hard-to-watch but honest summary of the dream of "stuff" over the reality of affordability
bob the moo26 January 2013
The Queen of Versailles got a lot of praise when it came out and it came to my attention by virtue of showing up in the top 10 lists for the year from several high profile critics. Indeed by the time I finally got to watch it, the film had been nominated for an Oscar as well. I wasn't quite sure what to expect though and to be honest I found it hard to "enjoy" the film because it does such a good job of sitting back and letting events unfold that at times it is painful in its honesty. From the comments on screen I guess that the film was originally going to focus on the family at a time when they were building the biggest house in America but obviously as events unfolded the film became something else. Specifically the sub-prime crisis hits the time-share market and the family's income takes a big hit seeing them having to abandon the partially build home, lay off staff from the company, then lay out some domestic help and finally having to actually think a little about where money is coming from.

To say it is an odd film is to understate the point. We spend the majority of the time with people who it is really easy to dislike – and I mean really easy – but yet we keep watching and in the end come out with more pity and sadness than hate. I don't think the film totally works because it is a bit uneven in its approach, even though the rather off-handish and agenda-light approach is to be commended, because it doesn't hammer them in the way it so easily could have done; instead it simply lets them be and uses some juxtaposition when it has the chance.

Jackie and David are hard to believe. They are the poster for excessive consumerism and having whatever you want simply because you can (and even if you can't). Just when you think that they cannot be any more out of touch and spoilt, they drop another beauty on you – such as Jackie renting a car from Hertz and asking "and what's my driver's name"; it took the employee all his strength to explain there was no driver included when you could see he as fit to burst out laughing. What amazed me more was the sheer crassness of the family – they say money doesn't buy taste but I have never seen it demonstrated with such vividness. The house is ugly and the excess within it is horrid but it isn't just the excess, it is the lack of taste and decorum; the limo sitting outside of McDonalds while Jackie gets food for the family is a great image, but it is nothing compared to the stuffing and displaying of family pets. This is on one level but even more jaw-dropping is the total lack of awareness shown. Jackie complains about how the bailout money didn't filter down to normal people – and by normal people she means them. They talk about the recession as if they are the victims and it never seems to occur to them that the business-model that got them rich could have possibly been part of the problem. The kicker is a comment late on from David about the family having to live within their means and spend money they have, not money they don't – this from someone who got rich off pushing dreams onto families whether they could afford it or not.

What stops the film being one big long mockery is that it is structured very well. On one hand it doesn't push an agenda of mockery, it simply lets it happen, but the main strength is that it has smaller people in there. The contrast with the family maids is perfect. We hear a woman talking about her father's dream of owning a concrete home (a dream he only realized by getting a concrete tomb) and it contrasts with the family she works for who have not only got a massive home but have filled it with so much crap that they do not care about any of it – to the point where we see a pet die because nobody feeds or waters it once the staff are no longer there to do it for them. There are several moments like this where the maids talk and manage to be both tragic figures but yet happy to even have the life they have; it is depressing to see these people living in the shadow of the family that supposedly has it all.

It is hard to sum the film up into one pithy sentence and indeed it is both hilarious and gut-wrenching in what it does but it does worth as a general commentary on modern times. The excess and tastelessness on display is depressing and contrasts with the basic dreams of the have-nots; meanwhile the fall from grace is graceless and captures the plight of much of the west (not just America) where the dream is obtained before it can be a reality – all on credit to the point where it stops being a dream and is sold as an expectation whether it can be afforded on paper or not. It is a hard film to watch but it is a very good one because aside from the good structure it sits back and allows the viewer to draw their own conclusions. An uncomfortable watch but a smart one.
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Wonderful Documentary
Michael_Elliott3 January 2013
The Queen of Versailles (2012)

**** (out of 4)

Rather remarkable documentary about timeshare billionaire David Siegel and his wife Jackie who both find themselves building a $100-million dollar home just as the 2008 financial collapse happens. This documentary shows their rise to the top but sudden fall from grace as they find their business going away and being forced to lay off thousands. I used the word "remarkable" earlier and I say that because I was really shocked at the quality of this film for a couple reasons. For starters, director Lauren Greenfield makes us care for this spoiled people and this here is something that I really didn't expect. I was also pleasantly surprised to see how open the documentary and the two main people were. I think most people will be able to respect and enjoy David because he really does seem like a good guy who built this empire through hard work. Jackie, on the other hand, just seems like an incredibly spoiled person and just check out the Christmas sequence where the family is broke yet she goes out and buys a ton of gifts including a bike even though the garage is full of them. Even though she does some incredibly stupid things, I must say that I enjoyed watching her throughout the events of this film. There's no question that the bad economy has effected people in countless ways. Most of the time these documentaries taking a look at the working class people so it was certainly interesting seeing those at the top and seeing how far they end up falling. The documentary does an incredibly good job not only looking at this family but also some of the people around them that have had their money taken from them. This includes various servants that the Siegel's employed and even their limo driver. There's no question that this lifestyle is something most won't ever get to enjoy but there are some pretty dark times here that we won't experience either.
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9/10
Plus ca change, plus c'est meme chose
paul2001sw-125 January 2016
How does one become fantastically rich? Through being more genuinely valuable to the rest of humanity than anyone else - or through working out how to make the system work for you? David Siegel made a fortune by pressure-selling timeshare accommodation; by taking a down-payment from and then arranging a mortgage for his customers; and then using those mortgages as collateral for advances from the banks, used in turn to pay for more development. In other words, even the collateral for his leverage itself took the form of debt! Underpinning this all was the magic of perpetually increasing house-prices, that promised to leave everyone in profit. But in 2008 the market stalled; no-one wanted to buy timeshare; exiting owners defaulted on their mortgages; and the banks would no longer take such borrowings as collateral for advances. Siegel's businesses went into free-fall.

'The Queen of Versailles' started as an account of the construction, by Siegel and his wife, of America's largest house. And in spite of the monstrosity of the whole thing, the couple come across as reasonably down-to-earth and engaging. But once the recession strikes, the family are caught up in a financial nightmare. On one hand, under this stress, the masks fall off, and David in particular betrays himself as a mean man with an exaggerated sense of entitlement, without a trace of recognition that his extreme prior good fortune was not a simple result of personal merit. One can start to see the man who has upgraded his family (via divorce and remarriage to a younger model) on two previous occasions. His current wife, Jackie (who was in fact - surprise! - an actual model) may previously have seemed grounded but now we see her inability to stop spending money, even when (in theory) she has none.

And yet one can almost sympathise with the family. The couple express incredulity when it's suggested that they solve their financial problems not just by selling their unfinished palace (which has become a millstone around their necks) but by moving into an apartment like anyone else. And yet - when you have nine children, dozens of servants, countless pets - how could you possibly live in an apartment? The world should surely not let anyone become as rich as it did the Seigels. And yet, it's hard to avoid feeling for them as they contemplate downsizing.

It's a fascinating documentary. A glance on Wikipedia tells us what has happened since it was completed. Siegel is back in business, and is even working on completing his Versailles again. And one of the couple's kids is dead, at the age of eighteen, of a drug overdose. Maybe that sympathy was misplaced. Plus ca change, as they say, plus c'est la meme chose.
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10/10
The Queen of Versailles
bpw-9465219 October 2015
Yesterday I found myself watching, "The Queen of Versailles". In the beginning I thought that this was all a joke… a 74 year old rich man (David) is married to a 43 year old woman (Jackie) and no one saw a problem with this? She's a gold digger –is all I kept thinking in my head. They were living a dream that people would kill for. Having a huge house and building an even larger house; the biggest house in America to be exact. This house contained 30 bathrooms, yes I said 30, 10 kitchens, a sushi bar, a tennis court, and a ballroom. Who needs 30 bathrooms? This house or shall I say mansion was built as a replica of the top 3 floors of a hotel in Paris. The Siegel's also bought 5 million dollars' worth of marvel from China to put into the house to fit the theme. I certainly don't have 5 million dollars just lying around and if I did I would put it to better use. Seeing that they have eight children, they could have started them a college fund that would have gotten each of them a doctorates degree and possibly have some money left over. Seeing how loosely she spent money and had eight kids by him I again thought that she was being a gold digger. Usually when a younger woman dates an older man it is all for the money. It was until she explained how her ex-husband misused and abused her that I began to see why she loved David so unconditionally. It seemed as if everything was okay until David was sued for unpaid bills and began having problems with his company. The banks began trying to foreclose on his home and resorts. Due to this David was forced to lay off seven thousand employees and 19 of his nannies, and the building of Versailles also came to a standstill. This gave a lesson: no matter who you are or how much money you have you must take care of your responsibilities or everything can crumble. The children took sacrifices such as transferring from private to public schools, losing friends in the transition, and as Jackie said, "they may have to go to college now." This is my problem with parents with money; they feel like their children are too good for public school! You learn the same material, require a diploma upon graduation, and you still meet friends. My best friend attended a private school while I attended a public school and I'm actually smarter than her! Just because it's private doesn't mean their IQ score will tremendously increase, I actually would say it decreases. I say this because when kids are in private school they feel as if they can do what they want because their parents fund the school. Just as one of the Siegel kids did; when he started public school he immediately began getting into trouble and serving detentions for attendance or behavior problems. Whether I'm rich or not my child will go to college. I did something with my life so that my child could live a good life and it is up to them to do the same. My child will not live off of me forever. While everyone, David, the kids, David's employees, and business partners suffered, Jackie did not. She continued to throw parties, spend uncontrollably, and have face-lifts. The money that Jackie was spending could have been used to help pay some of the bills or put aside for future use in case they lost everything. David became depressed and began pointing out ways in which his family was being ungrateful, and soon Jackie did too. The kids had pets that they had never taken care of that died once the nannies were laid off. When I was a child and asked for a pet it became my responsibility, not anyone else's. The Siegel kids knew nothing about responsibility and that is a major problem! This film shows major life lessons for everyone. I would not categorize this film to a specific audience, because everyone young or old can learn something from it. What you have today can be gone tomorrow. Stop taking things for granted. In my opinion, "The Queen of Versailles" is a very good film. I would rate this as a five star documentary and advise everyone to watch it. Jackie is being referred to as "The Queen," but the film does not just focus on her. The film also gives you a glance at the lives of those around her. There are pros and cons in this film and that surprised me. Normally, when watching something like this it's all good, but not this time. Now that you've read my review I would advise you to go watch it and give me your feedback.
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9/10
I'd Want To Say This Is A Cautionary Tale
christopher-cole8317 May 2015
Warning: Spoilers
There's a lot that can be taken away from this documentary, and I believe that this is a documentary in the truest sense of the word. Cautionary tale is, however, not something I would take away.

More often than not I believe that people become extremely wealthy by having some level of good sense. For those who fit that description I don't begrudge them whatsoever. I really don't have much to say against anyone who earns their fortune, be it large or small.

Yet David Siegel is someone who built his empire getting people to buy into his properties with money down that the vast majority of them didn't have. Toward the end of the documentary David has the audacity to say they can't be living beyond their means. Yet he got his wealth by getting people to vacation beyond their means. I find no sympathy for him whatsoever.

Meanwhile there is Jackie Siegel, the silicone built trophy wife who in one sense talks about the hard work she put into obtaining a computer engineering degree and working for her hometown company of IBM, and you almost want to feel something for her. But then you see her indulging in expensive beauty treatments, having animals she is incapable of taking care of, and seemingly clueless that when you rent a car you don't get a valet with it.

All of this is played against the backdrop of two properties: the largest single family detached home based on the layout of the Palace of Versailles (90,000+ square feet), and the Planet Hollywood Westgate Tower in Las Vegas, the crown jewel of David Siegel's professional properties. The house was built on land the Siegel's owned and would have been built without financing, except he took a mortgage out on the house to reinvest back into the company. And they began building the house only to have a place to store all the stuff Jackie was buying up compulsively.

Meanwhile the PH Westgate has opened and things are looking good until the sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2008 hit, and the construction company for the tower hasn't been paid in full. Most of the documentary is taken up by David's desperation to find revenue while having to lay of 7000 employees (which he feels bad about in passing comments) so that he can keep both his grotesquely huge house and his brand new tower.

Some interesting underlying stories develop however when one of the few house staff who isn't laid off talks about her upbringing in the Philippines. Her father simply wanted to own a concrete house. What money she makes she sends a portion back to help family and friends. She's content to live in a playhouse for David and Jackie's children.

The other stories surround the children themselves. David's oldest son is the VP of the company, and says he and his father have only a professional, business relationship, nothing close to resembling a father/son relationship. And while he acknowledges that the best advice is to let go of the Vegas tower and nearly all the money issues would be solved, he encourages his dad to hold onto it.

The other children are much younger, and it's clear that they don't seem to be as interested in the money as their parents seem to be. They wonder why their father doesn't join them for dinner. One of David's daughters is rightly upset that her efforts to help the family out by learning to cook is going both unnoticed and unappreciated by her father. Their mother is buying so many animals that the kids don't even know what all their pets are. And it's clear that David and Jackie just don't work as a couple when they live out their version of financial hardship as none of the children in the home seems to really matter to either of the parents. David goes so far as to say his greatest accomplishment in life was building his business, and then gives passing mention to his children.

I'd want to say this is a cautionary tale, but in all honesty I don't believe it is. It is more about how people are sold on an idea to spend more vacation time together by buying something they can't really afford with money they don't have (and may have to dip into their savings to get) by a man who has seemingly has all the money in the world but has little to no time for his own family, has no savings, buys property only to mortgage it in order to gain "cheap money" to be reinvested, gets mad at the banks for allowing him to do that and then wanting their money back, all to keep two properties that he doesn't really need. And the filmmaker just showed it all unfold.
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8/10
A great documentary, for reasons you might not expect
rooprect17 February 2015
After reading the top 2 IMDb reviews for this documentary using words like "appalling", "revolting", "tasteless", "classless" and everything short of "Nazi" to describe the subjects, I figured this would be a fun way to forget my own financial inadequacies by relishing in the multi-million dollar tragedy of a bunch of monsters who deserve to suck slime. So with that in mind I poured myself a cup of fresh blood and got my vampire on.

Immediately I was "disappointed" because, aside from having a pair of ivory tusks displayed in their living room, these people didn't display anything worthy of being flogged publicly as I was led to believe. Sure, their lifestyle was extravagant to a fault. But, ask any third-world kid who can't afford a pair of shoes, and you'll learn that extravagance is relative. No matter, thought I, wiping some drool off my non-designer jeans, this show is just getting started; I'm sure they'll spit on a few beggars in good time!

Actually quite the opposite. As the family begins to realize it's financial decay, instead of telling the laid-off employees to eat cake, Jackie actually started donating goods and volunteering at a local charity for their benefit. Aw man, way to kill a good feeding frenzy, thought I. Well, at least I can still hate her for all the excessive cosmetic treatments she keeps getting for her own vanity. Oops, wrong again. Those of us paying attention soon realize that she's not doing it for sheer vanity's sake but to try to please her husband as psychologically she seems insecure in that department. And as we learn more about the titular Queen of Versailles, we see many parallels between her and the other unfortunate queen, Marie Antoinette in her paper mâché marriage to Louis XVI. Yes, the interpersonal drama runs thick, between all family members in different ways. And just as the French eventually realized that they maybe went a little too far with that whole guillotine thing, you see that the Siegels, while guilty of clueless indulgence yes, don't nevessarily deserve to get their financial heads lopped off. These people are not aberrations of humankind as you'd been led to believe by some reviews, but instead, this is the story of a normal American family that has been subjected to abnormal extremes.

True, the husband (a man of 1 emotion: stoic), did at one point talk about how he personally got Bush re-elected by means that "may not have been legal", but he immediately counters it with "but then we got involved in this Iraqi War, so maybe I didn't do that much good after all." That statement is the key to understanding this powerful documentary. It is NOT a spectacle of seeing Emperors thrown to the lions. Rather, it is a very Faustian tale of pride and arrogance that gets the best of humans, and humans eventually accepting or at least admitting to the possibility that they were wrong. I'm talking about all humans, not just these people.

I have to hand it to the tragic family for bearing their downfall much more nobly than their rise. In the end (especially after watching the deleted scenes showing more of their human side), I felt good--not because I had just witnessed a gruesome car crash like other viewers, but because these people (except maybe 1 individual? I won't spoil) had all evolved into something better.

In that respect, this is a very complex story which requires your full attention. It's not like a sporting event that has 1 good guy, 1 bad guy and 1 outcome. It's really one of the best illustrations of pride under pressure. And although my greatest financial hurdle consists of how to pay my $75 parking ticket, I can somehow associate with these ex-billionaires on how money, and lack thereof, changes us all.
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