‘The Queen of Versailles'
David Siegel made multiple fortunes selling time-share properties to subprime customers, feasting on their Champagne and caviar dreams and keeping his trophy wife Jackie in limitless luxury. Director Lauren Greenfield's “The Queen of Versailles” chronicles how Siegel built his empty empire and started construction on a 90,000-square-foot Orlando, Fla., mansion, only to lose nearly everything in the 2008 economic crash and leave the imposing pile unfinished and moldering, but it is Jackie's strained relationship with reality that makes “Versailles” so darkly funny and insightful.
Jackie Siegel began her adult life as an IBM engineer and beauty queen, but then she met the much-older David Siegel and shifted her focus toward the glamorous life. At 43, Jackie is chemically peeled, surgically sculpted and a chronic shopaholic. In early scenes of “The Queen of Versailles,” which is now available for streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video, she refers to the section of the estate where her seven children would live as a place she would “visit.” Once her husband is besieged by creditors and he begins his ugly slide into acrimony and victimhood, Jackie cannot deal with the most basic elements of housekeeping as pet lizards start dying in their terrariums and the Siegels' massive “starter home” becomes a minefield of dog feces.
David Siegel is portrayed in “The Queen of Versailles” as a largely contemptible figure who has only a business relationship with his oldest son Richard, the lead salesman for Siegel's firm, Westgate Resorts. He boasts of some potentially illegal power brokering during the 2000 presidential election, and yet he seems to blame everyone but himself when his company craters. Toward the end, “The Queen of Versailles” starts to feel like a pilot for a Jackie Siegel reality television series, but for most of its running time, as the Siegels' would-be palace sits vacant, unfinished and decaying, it is a trenchant morality tale, a “Grey Gardens” for the Great Recession.
— George Lang