|QUEEN OF VERSAILLES
(director: Lauren Greenfeld; cinematographer: Tom
Hurwitz; editor: Victor Livingston;
music: Jeff Beal; cast: David
Siegel, Jackie Siegel, Richard Siegel; Runtime: 100;
MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Lauren Greenfeld/Danielle
Renfrew Behrens; Magnolia Pictures;
"My problem with this riches to rags Americana story is that I felt no sympathy for the featured self-absorbed materialists."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
problem with this riches to rags Americana story is
that I felt no sympathy for the featured self-absorbed
materialists. But I took no pleasure in their humbling
experience of no longer being without financial
worries after their business collapse. Two years ago,
at the start of filming, director Lauren
Greenfeld ("Thin"), was filming the doc as if a reality television program.
At that time the tacky but
crafty nouveau riche 74-year-old David Siegel,
a billionaire timeshare magnate of the Westgate
Resorts firm from Orlando, and his 30
years his junior busty trophy wife Jackie, a
divorcee from an abusive husband and a former beauty
queen contest winner from Florida, were sitting pretty
on the top of the world and outgrew their
26,000-square-foot Orlando home and thereby coughed up
a $100 million to build on a mortgage in Orlando a
90,000 square feet palace modeled after Versailles.
This would make it the largest single-family
home in America. The Versailles replica would
accommodate their eight children, many pets and their
19 live-in servants, plus a bowling alley, an
ice-skating rink, a baseball field, two tennis courts,
30 bathrooms, extra-large closets and enough French
antiques to stock a Paris museum.
when in 2008 the housing market collapse
throws Wall Street into a tailspin and the crooked
bank lenders no longer are loaning cheap money,
David's empire is ruined, Versailles remains
half-built, and real-estate hustler David is forced to
layoff over 6,000 of his employees and put his dream Versailles
house on the market and raise $400 million to keep
control of his flashy flagship Las Vegas resort from
the bankers. The couple must now adjust to living
within their means, which means no more private plane,
chauffeur driven cars, public school for the
spoiled kiddies and
the realization the kids would have to attend
college and get real jobs.
The pic holds the obscenely rich couple up to the mirror as an example of many scheming get-rich-quick Americans during these greedy times who lived beyond their means, made fast-money by crooked deals and were part of the problem why America was faced for the last four years with a financial crisis. We observe the pain the Siegels go through in handling their so-called humbling experience of doing such things as learning how to turn off all the lights in their big house to save electricity, flying on commercial planes and putting on a pretty face for a strained marriage.
passes no judgment on the Siegels, instead
she delves into their intricate lives and how they
fight back to persevere. The trophy wife, a
compulsive shopper who worked as an engineer when
living as a low-middle-class worker in her hometown
of upstate NY, proves to be no bimbo but a loving
mother and wife who vows to stand by her hubby for
richer or poorer and shows a genuine warmth to
others. The Siegels are depicted as
regular folks who got caught in the belief that their
investment schemes with the bank as lenders would last
forever and when the bubble burst these 0.001
percent not so innocent wealthy elites were as
stunned as the harder hit more innocent ninety-nine
percent of Americans and got a taste of the bad
medicine they were dishing out.
no trouble with the documentary with the way it was
filmed and how comical it seemed, but I never could
warm up to the smug David Siegel, known as the "Timeshare King," who
made his dough off hustling the struggling American
working-class by inducing them to live like the rich
folks even if they didn't have the money to do
so. David and his repulsive staff sucker the
suckers into taking vacation timeshares homes for the
rest of their lives in a resort they couldn't afford.
This, of course, ends when the banks are forced to
pull the plug on such shenanigans.
film ends in 2011 with the crass excessive
materialistic couple losing their Versailles palace
and the obstinate capitalist piggish David learning
that the imperious banks now have a controlling
interest in his crumbling empire. There isn't a final
resolution to the family financial woes--leaving the still
dreamy Siegels' story unfinished just like
America's current one.
REVIEWED ON 11/26/2012 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ