The Queen of Versailles – 4 stars
The gaudy nouveau riche feel, stately-meets-Glamour Shot portraits on the wall, grotesque adornment (including a gold throne), spoiled kids with Filipino nannies and a house staff of 19, stuffed dogs, fake tits, boasts of having gotten George W. Bush elected by illegal means (wink, wink), all presented within the framework of a family who wants to move from a 16 bathroom mansion to a Florida Versailles, well . . . you cannot wait for the fall of this cretinous couple, Jackie and David Siegel, the latter self-titled The Time Share King.
But as you watch them lose it all after the 2008 market crash, it is hard not to root for them. There is something endearing about Jackie’s limo ride to McDonalds, and there is a down-to-earth quality about the family, as well as a toughness in the adversity. But when the staff is downsized, and the house goes to shit (even the tropical fish and pet lizard die), and Jackie actually says, “I never would have had so many kids without a nanny,” well, the schadenfreude returns.
This documentary says a few things about resilience, greed, the American dream, status (Jackie’s take on TARP – “I thought it was supposed to go to the common people . . . You know . . . us” – is priceless) and excess, but it doesn’t preach or instruct, which is its greatest strength (so many documentarians force what they capture into a desired narrative). It is content to record a fascinating story about one very unique American family caught from their zenith to a fall (which didn’t last long).
I really liked this movie – and there is a subtle parallel between what the banks are doing to this familty and business and what they are doing to the middle-class (her friend who loses the house even though she has the payment). It is also a pretty intimate look at a marriage. I ended up liking this family even while recognizing their weaknesses. That’s a great documentary.