The Queen of Versailles has supersized realities
A documentary by Lauren Greenfield. Rating unavailable. Opens Friday, August 3, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas
The royalty here is one Jackie Siegel, a heavily augmented former beauty queen who is no dummy: she got a degree in computer engineering back in 1986, but upstate New York might not have been the best place to cash in on that timely distinction. Instead, she put her hopes in David Siegel, 30 years older, who indulged her passionate, if indiscriminate, consumerism while “growing” his massive time-share empire.
Early in this tart but compassionately assembled documentary, the Florida-based workaholic brags that he also “single-handedly” enabled George W. Bush to become president in 2000, through unspecified extralegal means—although his admission is tempered at least by a hint of regret about “the Iraqi war and all that”. No amount of reflection prompted caution about trading in the family’s Orlando mansion for a proposed home almost three times bigger and patterned after Versailles by way of Las Vegas.
It was the couple’s bad luck, and the good fortune of filmmaker Lauren Greenfield, that shooting started shortly before 2008, when the time-share business tanked. The Siegel scheme was primarily financed through the same iffy packaging responsible for the mortgage-derivative scandal that then rocked the market after years of festering. It’s strangely gratifying, then, to see our tacky aristocrats and their eight children downsizing, with Jackie flying commercial and picking up her own rental car—even if she does ask the Hertz guy for the name of her driver.
In the end, as weeds grow in their unfinished palace, now in foreclosure, they still refuse to give up their bloated dreams. Among many supersized realities in The Queen of Versailles is the fact that these courtiers, apparently, have zero idea what happened to the last folks who lived in the original.
Watch the trailer for The Queen of Versailles.