The Queen Of Versailles Review

“Everyone wants to be rich. And if they can’t be rich, they want the next best thing: to feel rich. And if they don’t want to feel rich, well… well then they might as well be dead.”

And this tells you pretty much all you need to know about the morals and political ideology of interviewee David Siegel, self-proclaimed Timeshare King and one of the subjects of Lauren Greenfield’s excellent documentary, The Queen Of Versailles.

This is essentially a riches to rags story, chronicling the financial downfall of billionaire Siegel, his ex-beauty queen wife Jackie and their large brood of kids.

The Siegel’s main claim to fame was their attempt to build the biggest private residence in America, even bigger than the White House.

The house was to be called Versailles, having been modelled on the famous french palace, but the Siegel’s dream was shattered by the 2008 economic downturn.

Greenfield’s documentary is part voyeuristic fascination with the lifestyles of the rich and shameless, part cautionary tale on the greed and materialism that, for some, encapsulates “The American Dream”.

Versailles acts as a metaphor for the collapse of the Siegel’s fortune as well as all those who lived so large in the good times before this global recession hit.

Jackie gives a tour around the half-built mansion early on in the documentary, while it’s still rich with potential and unfulfilled ambition. As events begin to unravel around them, this building crumbles into a cold, empty ruin; a monument to the days when people felt bulletproof from the economy.

The Queen Of Versailles never sermonises, never takes sides and rarely apportions sympathy, with the exception of Jackie’s childhood friend Tina who’s experiencing her own financial woes.

Unlike the Siegel’s, Tina always tried to live within her means and her tale is more disconcerting than sad.

Jackie is the eponymous Queen and star of this show, acting as the ever positive and frequently oblivious foil to David’s deflated curmudgeon.

Which is fortunate, as David isn’t exactly the easiest person to warm to.

And that’s without considering his shameless boast about having single-handedly secured George W Bush’s first term of office.

I’m sure former Florida governor Jeb Bush might have something to say about that.

Whatever you feel about the excesses of the rich and the wealthy, it’s sad to see the disintegration of any family unit.

The Siegel’s continuously remind us that they came from nothing, but you can’t help but wonder about their children who are heading in the opposite direction down the economic highway because of their parents greed.

The Queen Of Versailles is must-see stuff, amusing and horrifying in equal measure with a suitably ambiguous ending to remind us of our eternally uncertain economic landscape.

Conor Brennan

Leave A Comment

Dates ‘n stuff

September 2012