Lauren Greenfield's new documentary about billionaire septuagenarian David Siegel and much younger third trophy wife (who went from IBM engineering to modeling and housewife) Jackie (a modern day Marie Antoinette) touches with a certain extravagant sensitivity into the zeitgeist chronicled in Charles Ferguson's Inside Job.
In The Queen of Versailles Jackie might seem like one of the leads on one of those Real Housewives series, actually part of a billionaire couple whose reversal of fortune invites a certain kind of schadenfreude. In Orlando, the time-share king and his wife built the kind of eponymous residence that would house a 747 Jet to put their ginormous surfeit of riches to good use for themselves, their eight kids and potpourri of pets. David would make sure the business (selling the time-shares to those of a lesser financial grade) would prosper while Jackie kept up on the palatial upgrades. It is 2007.
Both seemed to be oblivious of their French history as their mortgaging for the future, i.e. overindulgence catches up with them with the Wall Street disaster and subsequent bailout in 2008. David's way of spending out of his reach doomed his time-share empire (including massive layoffs, the banks all over his home, as well as his swank Las Vegas towers, reduced to selling off assets), and Jackie had to let go of the sizable staff and drastically change her shopping habits with Walmart a sobering destination.
The filmmaking, which includes some shrewd and slick editing that has brought on some controversy and legal action from David due to misrepresentation, provides a kind of riveting eavesdropping that may bring on a certain amount of guilt for more than a few onlookers. Greenfield's pedigree in the film industry especially from a heedful lensing standpoint belies a more ambitious turn with its bells and whistles, especially in harsh (sub-prime) real-estate market times. Even halfway in the door (so to speak) she advantageously works off her all-access.
The Queen of Versailles isn't reduced to sensationalistic hubris (although many wouldn't mind having the deceived couple's master bedroom and appropriately downplays the sarcasm to poignant effect. The Siegels, as advertised adroitly on celluloid here, never had the class that could compare with their wealth, and theirs is a microcosm of the kind of cultural collapse that in the end becomes more moving and darkly fascinating than one could imagine.
|The Queen of Versailles||B+||B+|