The Queen of Versailles (2012)

11 Feb

The financial crisis has had a big impact on the world during the last couple of years with people losing their jobs and homes, banks disappearing and a real estate market which isn’t as healthy anymore as it once was. As this documentary shows though, it has also hit the rich and powerful. David Siegel has been very succesful in building his Westgate Resorts empire by timesharing luxury apartments. He has earned millions which he would use in constructing new buildings resulting in one of the big towers in Las vegas, which cost him 400 million dollars. He claims he’s so powerful that he is responsible for president Bush getting re-elected, which he admits doing in a way which probably is illegal.

He lives in a huge house together with his wife and 8 children and together they decided they wanted a new house. They wrote down what they wanted in their new house and inspired by a trip to France they want it to resemble Versailles. They had so many wishes for the house that once building started it turned out that it would become the biggest house in America. When you look at the numbers, 90,000 square-foot or 8360-square-metre it’s hard to imagine how big that is. They payed for it in cash and immediately put a mortgage on the unfinished building to invest in the company. They were on their way of realising a huge dream, until the financial crisis happened and everything was halted.

The Queen of Versailles review

In this documentary you get to know this super wealthy family. His wife, Jackie is a former Miss America who enjoys the life she’s living, being able to afford anything she wants (whether that’s shoes which costs thousands of dollars or slowly buying a new inventory for the new house) and has had 8 children because she has employed nannies who can take care of them. The documentary doesn’t show much of the kids, but they all live comfortably and get whatever they like. It’s clear that no matter how much money you have, you live by that standard and because of it always seem to want more.

The impact of banks suddenly asking for money forces the Siegels to put the unfinished house on the market (for an asking price of 75 million dollars), reducing the staff in the company by the thousands and reducing the staff at home as well. The well oiled machine seems to be close to breaking as some things don’t get done anymore and Jackie suddenly has to fly commercial instead of using a private plane. There is a scene where she rents a car and asks what the name of her driver is, resulting in a shocked looked from the man behind the rental desk. It also seems to put a strain on the relationship as it seems that Jackie and David live in separate worlds. With Jackie not knowing much about the financial issues because that’s not discussed and David totally focussed on his business.

The Queen of Versailles review

The Queen of Versailles paints a very interesting portrait about a wealthy family who seems to have the same type of problems less fortunate families have. No matter what you think of the Siegels, the documentary itself gives a fascinating look into their lives. Siegel wasn’t happy with how the documentary has turned out and sued Lauren Greenfield, who has admitted that some events shown in the documentary happened after the problems started (but which in the documentary seem to happen before), but stands with her depiction of this fascinating story. I’m sure some people might feel this documentary is too much like a reality TV show, but to me it was a movie which shows that no matter how much money you make, money is not equal to happiness.


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