‘The Queen of Versailles” has earned a lot of hype over the past few months, scoring considerable praise from critics and the Sundance Film Festival. The notion that such a film could resonate with anybody other than the 1 percent baffles me. This is a movie about unsympathetic billionaires that are so self-centered that they had to make a documentary about their alleged financial struggle. To refer to it as a “documentary” would diminish the value of the genre. “The Queen of Versailles” is nothing more than a reality show stretched to an hour and 40 minutes that belongs with the likes of the Kardashians on E!
Directed by Lauren Greenfield, the film follows the aristocratic lives of the Siegel family over the course of two years or so. David Siegel is the prosperous owner of Westgate Resorts, which has earned him the title of the timeshare king.
His younger trophy wife is Jackie Siegel, who was crowned Mrs. Florida during her days as a model. They have eight kids together, including a niece and stepchild from a previous marriage. The beginning of the film consists of the wealthy Siegels gloating about their treasure cove of possessions, making everyone in the theater feel extremely envious.
The Siegels are so rich that they decide to build the most expensive home in America at 90,000 square feet, practically the size of the Magic Kingdom. With $4 million windows, two movie theaters, a bowling alley, a sushi bar area, nine kitchens and a 4,000-square-foot closet, the only thing the house doesn’t seem to have is a money bin to swim in ala Scrooge McDuck.
As the economy begins to go sour, however, the Siegels are forced to stop building the house at its halfway point. Eventually, they put the uncompleted house on the market with the highly unlikely chances anybody will buy it. If things continue this way, it’s doubtful this plentiful family will get to see their dream house completed. How horribly tragic.
David Siegel describes his life as “a riches to rags story.” Here’s the major problem with his philosophy and the movie itself. For people that spend so much time wallowing in self-pity, the Siegel family never really undergoes any major hardships. Sure, they have to give up private schools, private jets, and other expenditures. But they’re still able to afford multiple savants, countless pets, enough Christmas presents to fill an entire van, fancy parties, Segways for the kids and Botox. Even though they must halt production on their dream house, they still get to keep their old mansion, which most people could only wish to live in. Despite all of this, “The Queen of Versailles” honestly expects us to sympathize with people that go from having everything to living a life of semi-luxury. Boo freakin’ hoo! There isn’t a violin small enough to express how little empathy the Siegel family merits.
The only people in “The Queen of Versailles” that garner any condolences are the Siegel family’s servants as they take care of the kids. There is one emotional scene in the picture where a servant discusses her children, who she hasn’t seen in over a decade. Instead of focusing on the true tragic figures though, the film spends more time creating mercy for the Siegel family, who will always be able to get by.
A few intriguing moments aside, “The Queen of Versailles” has nothing to say about the economy, family, greed or big business. But if you want to waste your money by paying to see wealthier individuals flush their own money down a golden toilet, this is the film for you.
• Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.