The Queen of Versailles Movie Review

Documentaries are rarely as hilarious as this one. Well, the first half of it at least, as filmmaker Greenfield proves to have a wonderful eye for absurdity as she explores the life of the ludicrously wealthy Siegel family. But as the cameras roll, things begin to shift into something much darker. The absurdity is still there, but now it is tinged with bitter irony as harsh economic reality comes crashing down around them.

The queen of the title is Jackie Siegel, third wife of time-share mogul David, and her Versailles is under construction in Orlando, designed to be the largest family home in America. These people are so rich that their current 30-bedroom mansion feels cramped. Well, Jackie has given birth to seven of David's children! And she runs the household with a mixture of lively intelligence (she has a computer engineering degree), surgically altered physicality (she's a former Miss America) and of course a large staff. Their new house will have 90 rooms, including 10 kitchens and 30 bathrooms, and everything is on track until the 2008 financial crisis hits David's business.

Suddenly Jackie's lavish spending feels even more obscene, as she struggles not to buy far too many Christmas gifts, for example, and has to let the staff go.

She recognises the pain inflicted on the families of employees David has had to make redundant, so she opens a charity shop for them. But her spoiled children have no idea about the real world, and certainly don't understand why their dad has lapsed into such a dark depression.

The filmmakers watch all of this with observant, unobtrusive cameras, catching a series of telling moments that make us laugh and/or cringe. This is a thoroughly entertaining film that encourages us to react to the excess of the Siegels' lifestyle while also provoking our more universal reactions to the recession. The sudden downturn in this family's fortune feels strangely sobering after the film's more comical opening section, but it also shifts this from a mindless laugh-riot into something much more important.

Rich Cline

Cast & Crew

Director : Lauren Greenfield

Producer : Lauren Greenfield, Mette Heide

Starring : Jackie Siegel, , Richard Siegel, Marisa Gaspay, Virginia Nebab, Wendy Ponce, Cliff Wright, Oscar Goodman

Comments

The Queen of Versailles Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: PG, 2012

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