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Movie review: 'The Queen of Versailles'

The documentary made its Oklahoma City debut earlier this summer during the deadCenter Film Festival, where it won the Special Jury Award for Documentary Feature, and returns to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art for screenings Friday through Sunday.
Oklahoman Published: August 24, 2012

If there's a queasy, outrageous caricature to be had of America's pampered and greedy one percenters, 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 trophy wife Jackie — in “The Queen of Versailles,” director Lauren Greenfield's lurid, funny yet oddly poignant contemplation on corrosive wealth.

At first blush, it appears, here's a chance for us 99-percenters to gawk and snicker and assume the moral high ground over those who would 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.

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 scene David boasts of pulling strings in the 2000 presidential election to get W. into the White House.

It's scant justice then that Siegel, who made his billions selling subprime mortgages to people who couldn't afford them, is laid low by the 2008 crash and very financial skulduggery that he supposedly helped put in place.

But before hard times descended on David and Jackie, they had their own dream of a pleasure dome that would rival anything Kublai Khan could conjure. That would be their very own Versailles, a 90,000-square-foot Orlando mansion boasting 10 kitchens, a skating rink, wall-to-wall antiques and opulent architecture inspired more by Las Vegas theme-park glitz than 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 lost her moorings in reality.

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MOVIE REVIEW

‘The Queen of Versailles'

PG1:403 stars

Starring: Jackie and David Siegel.

(Thematic elements and language)

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