The Queen of Versailles Film Review
By Kam Williams
Billionaire Builds McMansion for Trophy Wife in Dysfunctional Family DocumentaryReal estate mogul David Siegel founded Westgate Resorts back in the Seventies and went on to strike it rich selling luxury time shares in 28 locations around the country. Unfortunately, his obsession with work took a toll on his first marriage, but after a messy, decade-long divorce battle, he started another family with a gorgeous trophy wife 30 years his junior.
The 74 year-old CEO now has 7 children with Jackie, 8 if you count her orphaned niece they adopted. Although Siegel was already keeping his flamboyant, young spouse in the lap of luxury, against his better judgment he also agreed to build her the biggest and most expensive single-family home in the United States.
David and Jackie Siegel in THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. Photo Credit: Lauren Greenfield
A replica of Louis XIV's 17th Century Palace of Versailles, plans for the sprawling, 90,000 square-foot estate included 10 kitchens, a grand ballroom with a staircase at either end, a skating rink, a bowling alley, a health spa, tennis courts, a baseball field, a performance theater, maids quarters, etcetera. But when the real estate bubble burst in 2008, the economic recession took a terrible toll on Siegel's entire empire.
Not only did he have to lay off 7,000 corporate employees at Westgate Resorts, but he also had to scale back his on his lavish lifestyle. The household staff shrank from 19 to 4, the kids were moved from private to public schools, and the family started flying on commercial airliners instead of by a private Gulfstream jet. In addition, the dream mansion project had to be halted halfway to completion when the bank threatened to foreclose on the property.
The stress started taking a toll on the Siegel marriage, too, especially after David tried to put Jackie on a budget. And when the reckless 43 year-old failed to implement some of the suggested cost-cutting measures, he went so far as to threaten to trade her in for a couple of cute 20 year-olds.
All of the above was captured on camera by Lauren Greenfield, the masterful director of The Queen of Versailles. The dysfunctional family documentary is compelling because it invites the audience to see just how decadently the other 1% lives which only makes it that much easier to take pleasure in their subsequent misfortunes.
A brilliant biopic which elicits an emotional response that's the epitome of schadenfreude!
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG for mature themes and mild epithets.
Running time: 101 minutes
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
To see a trailer for The Queen of Versailles:
Kam Williams is a syndicated film and book critic who writes for 100+ publications. He is a member of the New York Film Critics Online, the African-American Film Critics Association, and the NAACP Image Awards Nominating Committee. Contact him through NewsBlaze. Read more reviews by Kam Williams.
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