For whatever reason, we like to watch rich people parade around their lives. However, what we like more is when the rich struggle. The Queen of Versailles is just that, a ‘riches-to-rags’ story.
In 2008, David and Jackie Siegel were living the American Dream: he the billionaire time share developer, who started with nothing; she the loving trophy wife, model and pageant winner, of course. They had plans to construct a 90,000 square foot home, which would be the largest in the United States. All was going well, then the recession hit. They were forced up stop work on their home and downsize their extravagant lifestyle.
It is a strange feeling watching The Queen of Versailles because much of it often feels staged. Parts feel like they have been taken verbatim from a sit-com. These are often the result of Jackie reacting with real life customs, for example when she lands down in a Midwestern American town to visit a friend she asks her children: “How was it flying commercial?” Then she goes on to ask the car rental clerk: “What’s the name of my driver?”
Other sources of comedy arise from the constant oxymorons, the most prominent being that of Jackie going to McDonald’s in a limo.
These were by far the film’s best features, as funny as they were disconcerting, in that they reassure you that these types of people still exist. It could even be said that Versailles mocks the couple and ridicules their lifestyle (or at least the couple thought so, as they are new suing director Lauren Greenfield).
That’s not to say that the film doesn’t at least try to make the Siegels come across as loveable and likeable people. Their driver is a close friend of David’s, and there are many occasions where the audiences gets an insight into the ‘struggle’ that Jackie had to endure when she was met with animosity because of her extreme wealth at her child’s baseball games. Despicable as that may sound though, Versailles is an impressively detailed character study with clearly little or no restriction on what was going to be documented. The most pleasurable moments are the intimate interviews with David and Jackie, which are often left with bloopers and scene set-ups that only further add to the film’s more comedic elements.
Overall, Versailles is an engaging documentary with immensely funny, entertaining subjects at its heart. It uses its subjects well and really delves into the intricate nuances of their life, however mundane they might seem to them. It’s a film truly rich in humour and entertainment and a real gem if you want to escape the sea of animated Halloween films being released over the coming month.