The Queen of Versailles is a character-driven documentary about a multi-billionaire family, that follows their financial challenges from 2007 on, in the wake of the economic downfall. Directed by Lauren Greenfield, who won the U.S. Directing Award for Documentary Film at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for this film, the film follows Jackie and David Siegel, who have amassed their wealth from the timeshare industry. The film begins with the family triumphantly constructing the biggest house in America, a 90,000 sq. ft. palace — dubbed ‘Versailles’ (the largest single-family home in America). Over the next two years, their sprawling empire collapses due to the economic crisis – cutting employees, buildings, and their lifestyle. The film then tracks their struggle in financial turmoil, providing some humorous moments as well as surprisingly depressing and heartfelt.
Once the economic bubble bursts, the one on one interviews with both David and Jackie Siegel take on deeper intimacy — it shifts into an emotional film that sees their marriage go to the brink. Greenfield again captures these emotions perfectly and helps the viewer not only understand the family they are seeing collapse, but actually feel for them. For example, by the end of the film, with most of the household staff laid off, Jackie’s job includes wandering around scraping dog poop off the carpet in room after room.
Greenfield did an excellent job showcasing the Siegel family’s incredible life before the collapse, and then making it hit home with everyone in the audience. Side stories throughout the film provide more background and depth into the characters that make the film that much more personal. Overall, the film is a microcosm of the ‘American Dream’ gone wrong, providing lessons for all of us to learn from.
Kibitzers Rating: 4 out of 5