dir. Lauren Greenfield
I entered The Queen of Versailles with extreme trepidation. [Insert joke about this being something that was said by some person.] It being one of the most lauded films of the year, I was keenly aware of the subject of this doc: filmed before and during the financial crisis, The Queen of Versailles chronicles the “hardships” endured by time-share mogul members of the 1%, David and Jackie Siegel, as they struggle to live within their ungodly means. (Incidentally, you’ll remember David Siegel as the asshole who threatened to fire his employees if they didn’t vote for his preferred candidate in the last presidential election.) These poor bastards have it so rough they might even have to (gasp) sell off their unfinished 90,000 square foot mini-palace, and instead live in a mansion half that size.
Why would the Siegels have to make the ultimate sacrifice and forego the super-mansion that is every American’s birthright, you ask. Well, as David responded when asked whether he was still a billionaire: “it’s touch and go right now.” I hope you’ll be proud of me that I refrained from hurling the closest available object at my screen after hearing this asshole use life-and-death terminology to describe the precarious position of vacillating between ungodly, disgusting wealth and mere mega-wealth. But I maintained composure; I followed this shit through to the bitter end.
And to director Lauren Greenfield’s credit, she never passes judgment on these obliviously rapacious people. Indeed, The Queen of Versailles functions more as a sociological document chronicling the collective thought process that led to the financial collapse. The Siegels, for years, lived beyond their means because they wanted never to feel not rich; they always wanted more. Money was going to be cheap forever; their time-share business would always get an influx of subprime loan cash, because they would always be able to con people into buying time-shares they didn’t need with money they didn’t have, and the banks would continue doling out the cash. Those conned by the time-share company wanted to feel wealthy as well, after all.
The Queen of Versailles gives us access, a slight understanding of the thought process of the 1%, people for whom material gain is an end in and of itself, aptly illustrated by the young cousin that the Siegel’s have adopted. Raised in extreme poverty, this girl was shocked at how unreal life was with the Siegels. She was an outsider looking in; she could appreciate just how good she had it now. But over the years she admitted that being super-rich just seemed normal and more and more was now the ultimate goal. After all, how can you keep a girl on a dirt floor basement after she's been chauffeured to McDonald's in a limo.
I generally only do this for my TV show reviews, but, The Queen of Versailles being the kind of anger-inducing film it is (for me, anyway), I thought I’d treat you to some of the ramblings I jotted down while witnessing The Siegel’s plight:
I never understood the appeal of acquiring a trophy wife. As David says at one point: “It’s like having another child.”
It’s so unsettling watching the strained muscles beneath Jackie’s plastic face attempt to mimic what we humans would refer to as smiling.
Wow, David, so your parents lost all their money in Vegas because they wanted to maintain the illusion of wealth, and now you want to honor their memory by building a time-share resort in Vegas in which you’ll bilk unsuspecting folks out of money they don’t have, thus ensuring their future bankruptcy, so they can also maintain the illusion of wealth–as a tribute to your grandparents. Cognitive dissonance much?
Oh dear God, they have to fly commercial now and not on a private jet. Fuck you, Tiny Tim; these people know what real suffering is.
Jesus Christ, David, how many young’uns did your seed spawn? Get a fucking vasectomy already.
What an insane carbon footprint these assholes must be leaving.
Arghhisdchristdnuwfuckkedrrr [unintelligible impotent rage]
Dave's Rating: Here’s yet another movie I’ve no idea how to rate.