Queen of Versailles Film Review: Capturing Reality in Cinema Verite


Sundance hit “The Queen of Versailles” chronicles the Siegel family from their highest point to their lowest demise in a documentary so real it brings shame to “reality TV” and kudos to their filmmaker Lauren Greenfield, lawsuits or not.

As we meet The Siegel’s, their opulence is audacious.  Too much, too big, too brash.  As the husband says later “Jackie collects things.”  You can’t just have one.  Wife Jackie and husband David are just about at the top of the world.  Loving, wealthy, happy.  Not only are they successful, they’re growing.  The family is building anuber-mansion nearby their current mansion.  This building is based on Versailles Palace in France and a source of pride for them both — although probably for different reasons.  In the meantime their children, pets and full-time staff (nannies, housekeepers) live in their current deluxe abode.

Jackie is a handful in the best of ways.  Full of life, love and expensive accoutrements.  And yes, she needs them all.

David is an incredibly wealthy, self-made billionaire businessman.  He owns Westgate Resorts, the largest timeshare company in the world.

As we learn David’s business better, the unfortunate timing of life interrupts.  The 2010 down economy affects him immediately because thousands (if not more) of his customers can no longer afford the mortgages on their time shares.  Equalling a sudden and dramatic shift of ten’s of millions of dollars.  In layman’s terms, he’s losing all of his money because his customers have lost all of theirs.

The downturn doesn’t seem to affect Jackie at first.  Either it’s her optimism, or maybe David doesn’t want to stress her out.  But David is stressed.  Working longer hours, frantically looking for finance resources.  All while office-after-office of his business shuts down.

David gets personal loans in order to keep their Versailles out of foreclosure.  He’s selling smaller luxury items.  He’s nitpicking bills that would never before garner his interest.  He loses his newest venture, the Las Vegas Westgate.

As the story ends, David keeps squeaking out of trouble just in time, victorious but far from unscathed.

Filmmaker Laura Greenfield has a background in still photography which explains her camera ease and framing.  But her cinema verite style is what has been capturing attention from audiences around the world.