Billed as a riches to rags story, The Queen of Versailles is a surprisingly poignant look at the effects of the recession on the Siegel family, aspiring owners of the largest house in America.
As documentary subjects, the Siegels are pretty much perfect. Jackie Siegel is a blonde, surgically enhance, former Mrs Florida and her husband David Siegel is a time share mogul thirty years older her senior who proudly claims responsibility for getting George Bush elected. Impressively, director Sarah Greenfield manages to portray them both in a likable and relatable manner.
The couple have eight kids and are in the middle of building their 90,000 square foot dream home, modelled after the palace of Versailles , when the film begins in 2007. When recession hits, their house has to be put on the market, and the family have to become accustomed to a life “no longer in the billionaire category”.
The Queen of Versailles shows the impact of the recession on people generally assumed to escape unscathed from it. Although they might have entirely different problems than us 99 per cent-ers, the stress caused by being responsible for the jobs of thousands of people and having millions of dollars’ worth of loans to pay back has an obviously devastating effect on their marriage.
Greenfield is extremely thorough, and manages to show many aspects of the Siegel family, beyond the standard caricature of an ageing billionaire and his trophy wife.
The Queen of Versailles captures the family in all their tackiness, complete with stuffed former pets, vanity photo shoots and endless gold antique furniture. But it also shows their humanity, like Jackie starting a thrift store to help out laid off employee.
An entertaining insight into how the other half lives, and fails, the Queen of Versailles is well worth a watch.