Monday, December 31, 2012

Under 250: The Queen of Versailles

Queen of Versailles was my Christmas Eve morning movie, a weirdly appropriate look at a case of extremely conspicuous consumption.  Lauren Greenfield's documentary follows Jackie and David Siegel, a couple engaged in a grotesque level of indulgence in the American dream.  David is the 74-year old CEO of Westgate Resorts and, thus, a real estate magnate with so much money he's planning to move his family from their 17-bedroom mansion to a 30-bedroom, 10-kitchen, skating rink, baseball field, separate wing for the children, Florida replica of Versailles.  Jackie is David's 43-year old trophy wife: an ex-model and pageant queen who leads the viewer through the unfinished husk of her future palace and flatly shows you a future closet the size of a large master bedroom. The building is an insane endeavor, and brilliant raw material for a documentary.  When Greenfield started filming (in 2007), the Siegel's were on track to completing Versailles without incident...then, the economy tanked. As everything falls apart, we watch the Siegels confused attempts to scale back, keep up appearances, and hold on to a modicum of pride.  It's a fascinating approach to economic ruin, and the Siegels are such an oddly lovable bunch of brats that I found myself almost feeling bad for them as they cluelessly bring home a half dozen carts of impulse buys because they're "saving money" shopping at the Wal Mart.   

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