Movie review: ‘Queen of Versailles’ reigns over kingdom of materialism
If there’s a queasy, outrageous caricature to be had of America’s pampered and greedy one per-centers, it’s surely in the breathtaking portrait painted of the Siegels – 73-year-old time-share billionaire David and his balloon-chested 43-year-old blonde trophy wife Jackie – in “The Queen of Versailles,” director Lauren Greenfield’s lurid, funny yet oddly poignant contemplation on corrosive wealth and materialism run amok.
At first blush, it appears, here’s a chance for us 99-per-centers to gawk and snicker and assume the moral high ground over those who would flaunt their fabulous wealth, grab more than their fair share, violate all bounds of good taste and dismiss the masses with “let them eat cake” callousness.
But Greenfield appears to be after something more subtle and complex than glib Schadenfreude or merely holding up the Siegels for ridicule in light of their amoral grasping, creepy vulgarity, self-deluding ignorance and utter lack of social conscience.
Sure, David Siegel is a detestable old skinflint – the miserly embodiment of folks that George W. Bush blithely described as “the haves – and the have mores.” In fact, in one telling early scene David boasts of pulling strings in the 2000 presidential election (perhaps illegally?) to get W. into the White House.
It’s scant justice then that Siegel, who made his billions selling subprime mortgages to working people who couldn’t afford them, is eventually laid low by the 2008 crash and very financial skullduggery that he supposedly helped put in place.
But before the hard times descended on David and Jackie, they had their own dream of a stately pleasure dome that would rival anything Kubla Khan could conjure. That would be their very own Versailles, a record-shattering 90,000-square-foot Orlando mansion boasting 10 kitchens, a private skating rink, wall-to-wall antiques and an opulent architecture inspired more by Las Vegas theme-park glitz than actual French stateliness.
Reigning with giggly delight over this gaudy consumer spectacle is its de facto “queen,” the aging model/beauty contestant (and former IBM engineer) Jackie, who marvels at her good fortune in having married a man of unlimited means. She shops as reflexively as she breathes and also seems to have lot her moorings in reality.
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