The Queen of Versailles is a documentary about the David Siegel (Founder of Westgate, the largest time share property company) and his wife, Jackie, as they attempt to chase after and define the American Dream amidst the recent financial crisis.
The Siegel family is incredibly rich and a bit eccentric. Prior to the bubble bursting, they were on top of the world and in the process of building the largest ( and tackiest) family home in America located in Orlando, Florida. It was modeled after the palace of Versailles. Their empire started to tumble in 2008 and the documentary shows their family life from 2008-2010, as they try to cope with their losses and restructure their lives.
This family takes a huge hit, but they are never poor. Even at their worst, they still have more money than most people could conceive of making. I noticed as I sat in the audience, a lot of the people around me were laughing at the Siegel's downfall in a mean spirited manner. I couldn't help but feel sadness and sympathy towards them. Yes, they live in excess and an excess that is nearly unbelievable. However, I think that their excess mirrors a lot of people in America, just on a much grander scale. I would say that a majority of people that I know have at some point lived beyond their means via credit whether due to a financial crisis ( loss of job, et) or just irresponsibility. This overhaul of ones circumstance is a huge stress and is scary. I felt for the Siegels as they faced their uncertain future and as they owned up to their financial mistakes. They had a obvious genuine concern for their employees that hit as well and you could see that it magnified the stress that they were already feeling.
The movie also really highlights the ideas of tangible verses intangible. In one of the more heartbreaking segments, the nanny talks about leaving her native country to chase the dream of raising money to buy a house in her home country, She found herself giving up her own family and adopting the Siegels, in particular the Siegel children whom she loves like her own. She sees, too late, that the dream of the house has made her give up her own children.
Jackie also faces opposition from David, who is so driven by his company, ignores his family. Jackie and the children are desperate for his time and love. It is obvious that she would give up their fortune to get have her family back. They have a very rocky marriage lacking basic communication and respect.
The children have everything, but do not actually act spoiled, they just seem sad and lacking. One of the children even talks about how the stuff they own is meaningless, because it only adds to an obsession to own more things, a need that is never satiated.
I feel like instead of mocking the Siegels for their excess, the movie is really about the majority of us and of American culture. We live in a society that starting to realize the detriment of living in excess and that chasing the American Dream should place people at the top, not money or objects.
The heavy subject matter is lifted by some real funny moments and great editing. In particular, I felt like Jackie was a good sport. Yes, she does say some things that make her seem ditzy ( ala Jessica Simpson and the Chicken of the Sea), but she is real and likable.