‘The Queen of Versailles’ designed to make you angry, or shocked, or bewildered
The Queen of Versailles
Directed by Lauren Greenfield
Anyone who believes excess is the American way would find the new documentary The Queen of Versailles to be a rock-solid example of their point. The film chronicles the last few years in the lives of David and Jacqueline Siegel, who endeavored to build and live in the biggest single-family home in the United States, clocking in at just about 90,000 square feet. (They couldn’t go for a cool 100,000? Where’s the ambition?) Because the Siegels made their fortune in the world of real estate, though, their story takes a disastrous turn after the financial world is rocked in the fall of 2008 by plummeting stock prices. What was once meant to be a simple, shocking story of unfettered greed turns into an equally astonishing riches-to-rags tale.
Director and producer Lauren Greenfield doesn’t bring a flashy or stylish feel to the proceedings, but she doesn’t need to. The Siegels, particularly wife Jackie, don’t need any gaudy cinematic tricks to spruce up their insane and jaw-dropping lifestyle, listed out early in the film. From the number of rooms in their old house to what they’ll upgrade to in the new mansion—complete with 10 (10!) kitchens—it’s clear that the Siegels are primed to be taken down a peg or two. When the market goes belly-up, David is hit extremely hard, as he’s the founder, president, and CEO of the world’s largest timeshare company. Greenfield doesn’t have to foreshadow the strife the Siegels will soon experience; we know from the get-go that they won’t be living large for much longer, even as they flaunt their wealth.