The Queen of Versailles - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Queen of Versailles Reviews

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Super Reviewer
May 7, 2014
This may be the most fascinating documentary to be made solely about a family since "An American Family." Jackie and David Siegel are some of the most shallow and yet intelligent people in America, being worth billions, both having a good education, and business acumen. They have gaudy taste, a love of McDonald's, and an inability to understand the debt they owe. Jackie spends too much money, plans for a huge home they now can't afford, and suffers under her husband's ill treatment and cranky attitude. The film starts with them doing well in 2008, planning to build the biggest home in America, and ends two years later with bankruptcy, a defaulted mortgage, and a shipwrecked marriage. The documentarians also interviewed their nannies, their children, their relatives, and others affected by the recession's claim on Siegel's billion dollar company. It's both sad to watch them fall from their pedestal, and creepily satisfying to watch them now know loss. The film ends on a sour note as the family unit starts to collapse, and nothing seems to be resolved. This is a must watch for anyone who loves people who are characters in and of themselves.
Super Reviewer
January 1, 2014
Sublime. Trash has never been so white!
Super Reviewer
December 28, 2012
There are thousands of stories about the impact of the economic crisis going on in the U.S. "Queen of Versailles" is one of those stories, and it happens to be one of the most interesting ones. This is a documentary about David Seigel, a billionaire who runs Westgate resorts, and his family as they build the biggest house in the U.S. At 90,000 sq. ft it is going to be something unbelievable to behold. 30 bathrooms, 17 kitchens, it's going to have it all. Then in the middle, the documentary becomes something else, as real estate bubble causes the Seigels to lose a fortune, lay off 7,000 employees, and risk losing everything. Their house becomes an unfinished dream, while David searches for a way to fix everything. The Seigels aren't bad people, they actually come off very nice, and seem like genuine good people. But, they are spoiled and filthy rich, so seeing them struggle financially is kind of funny, and you don't feel sorry for them at all really, but you like them. This is very entertaining and interesting, one of the better documentaries of the year. Also, it's a movie that will make you say "wtf?" probably more than any other movie of the year.
Super Reviewer
½ December 21, 2012
A perfect marriage of capability and serendipity. Director Lisa Greenfield documents time share magnate David Seigel & his mostly silicone "better" half Jackie as they embark on a journey to treat themselves to the largest home in America. Because, well..., they deserve it.

Yet, as fortune would have it, this would all come to a screeching halt with the 2008 financial crisis. Jackie, who can best be described as an infant with a taste for Chinese marble, must essentially learn how to walk again. This may sound dramatic, but there are so many scenes in which Jackie cannot literally fathom a world in which she is not being waited on by the rest of humanity.

On top of catching these unfolding events, Greenfield simultaneously probes into the past of these fascinating specimens. Even with the benefit of hindsight and the knowledge that the unbridled pursuit of affluence is a road paved with fractured families, the illusion of wealth vastly outweighs personal responsibility.

That Jackie and David agreed to let the cameras keep rolling is a testament to their myopic belief that their tenure as royalty is forever.

There is also an interesting theme of junk food that pervades. Maybe this couple just has a love for hitting the drive-thru, but it was a fascinating contrast to see that even amid these gaudy ballrooms and staircases, they cannot stifle the urge to stuff their faces with filth. Trite as it might be, it is hard not to think of that old adage, "you are what you eat."

What starts as an episode of the real housewives of Orlando on steroids, evolves into a personal and uniquely American story of aspiration, excess, and the sobering reality of financial security; a microcosm of the financial crisis as a whole.
Super Reviewer
September 3, 2012
Both sad and funny. And somehow everyone in the theater seemed they needed to add their commentary, so it really riled them up.
Super Reviewer
August 29, 2012
Timeshare king David Siegel and his ex-beauty queen wife are building America's largest private home, a replica of Versailles; but when the real estate bubble bursts and David has to sell the private jet, can the family tighten their belts and adjust to living the stripped back lifestyle of mere millionaires? Despite their cluelessness and self-centeredness, the extravagant Siegels come across as complex and often unhappy individuals rather than just caricatures of American greed. Funny and thought-provoking; if reality television had wit and heart, it might look a lot like THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES.
Nate Z.
Super Reviewer
August 16, 2012
Meet the Siegels, the subjects of a Sundance-winning documentary, The Queen of Versailles. David is a real estate magnate in his 60s. Jackie is his 40-something wife, a former model, and together they have eight children. It would be an understatement to call the Siegels rich. These people are stupid rich. These are people that have so much money they don't know what to do with it, which is why David and Jackie set out to build the biggest home in the nation. After the subprime mortgage flameout of 2008, the Siegels took a major hit in their resources. But not everyone sees worldwide economic disaster as a wake-up call. Some just keep on shopping.

The Queen of Versailles is one captivating clinical study in overreaching. In the wake of the financial collapse, politicians were eager to lambaste the poor who bought mortgages they couldn't afford (the better to shield blame from their friends in the banking cabal). Let this film show you that even the super rich can have trouble living within their (enormous) means. I won't lie; part of the appeal of this documentary is the continual shock of the wasteful extravagance the Siegel clan called normal. How opulent was their lifestyle? Well their 26,000-square foot home only had 17 bathrooms, so you can see why the Siegels would feel the need to build the biggest home in the nation. This 90,000-square foot fortress was modeled after the actual French palace in Versailles, so you know, it's going to be modest. It was designed to have 30 bathrooms, 10 kitchens, a bowling alley, an ice-skating rink, and two movie theaters (for counter programming?). The large stain glass window itself cost $250,000. The total cost of the project: more or less $100 million. I repeatedly laughed to myself in disbelief at the untamed lavishness on display. I confess it's hard for me to put myself into this vapid mindset. I just see all hat money and think of all the better things it could have been spent on. How many children could be vaccinated with $100 million? How many people could have been bought out of slavery with that money? How many low-income students could have afforded college? The kicker, what really gets my ire, is that is was all unnecessary. The Siegel family already lived in a giant mansion. Did they have to live in a giant-er mansion? When is enough just enough?

By the end of the movie you won't know whether to scorn the Siegels or feel sorry for them. I'm at a loss myself. There's a certain level of schadenfreude watching a riches-to-rags story, watching the wealthiest among us find their world of easy money come crumbling down. But then you start thinking what these people are going to do now without the luxury of wealth. The Siegel children are horrified when at one point dad declares they will likely have to go to college and, gasp, earn their own living. And if these kids have to fend for themselves, it doesn't take a genius to get a sense of what the future holds. At one point, the adopted niece discovers her pet lizard is dead. Jackie harangues her about not taking care of it. "No one takes me to the pet store!" the niece declares. "But why didn't you at least give him water?" Jackie reasonably asks. The niece responds dead-serious: "That wouldn't have made a difference." And these people are going to have to fend for themselves! The horror that waits. The entire family has been wrapped up in a cocoon of wealth, insulated from the real world, and now has no real sense of how to navigate this new, blunt reality. Adding to the sadness is the dawning realization that David Siegel cannot stand his wife. Jackie is wife number three, and a former pageant winner/model, so we all know what stood out to the older businessman. Even his kids know. Late in the film, when the weight of creditors bears down on him, David sequesters himself in his private room, shows no interest in his wife or his children, and confides to his dog that the two of them could just run away together. With the comforts of wealth stripped away, and Jackie reaching, gasp, middle age, it becomes readily apparent that David's waning affection is not going to reverse.

But the movie belongs to Jackie, the titular queen, and she is easily the most fascinating figure in the film. It's easy to dismiss the bleach-blonde woman with huge fake breasts and a shiny, fake life of glamor. Is she a ditz? She got a degree in computer engineering. Impressive. Is she a gold digger? She cannot help herself when it comes to buying, whether it's at Southerby's or Wal-Mart. Is she even a good mother? She does admit that she would not have had nearly as many children if it weren't for the ever-present nannies. What I saw was a woman who knew she could taste the good life and then became afraid of being kicked to the curb. David is happy to fund her personal projects and let her splurge on posh buys, but for how long? Her body, impressive though top-heavy, is aging, and her model looks are naturally fading into a comfortable middle age. Such is life. However, you can tell that Jackie is terrified. Mountains of money acted like a buffer between her and her husband. That's gone now. He keeps joking that when Jackie gets old he's going to dump her for two twenty-year-olds. Even when the family is downsizing, Jackie makes sure to fit in her beauty stops (botox, tanning, etc.). Some might charge the woman with being toxicly narcissistic, but I think that's too simple. Her looks are her meal ticket and now they are betraying her. She knows the type of man she married, and they both seem to be failing to live up to expectations. Now that the shiny distractions are removed, they have to live with one another as-is, and as-is doesn't really work for men of wealth and ego.

Director Lauren Greenfield (Thin) spent three years documenting the Siegel clan. She must have done something right with her finished product since David Siegel filed a lawsuit against the movie and Greenfield. The suit argues the film damages David Siegel's credibility by positing that his company is on the verge of financial ruin. His company, Westgate Resorts, sold timeshares in the same kind of high-pressure sales tactics that lead to people buying things they cannot afford. After the 2008 meltdown, guess what? People couldn't afford their own homes let alone a vacation timeshare. When the bankers freeze the easy money, Siegel and his company cannot pay their bills and have to downsize, sell offices, and foreclose major properties, including their signature Vegas resort. It's hard to imagine that Greenfield went out of her way to portray a gloomy outlook on Siegel's company when the facts are pretty black and white. He lost his access to money and lost assets he couldn't afford any longer. The litigation just seems like desperate spin against the obvious and insurmountable.

From a documentary standpoint, not all of the storylines and messages stick together. You can tell Greenfield wants to use the Siegel clan as an allegory for the American consumerist culture. See, the movie says, even the rich overreached too. But beyond the audience feeling superior to such careless individuals, I don't think this works. The movie never fails to be fascinating but almost in a car-crash sort of manner, as we vicariously lavish in the pornography of riches. Certainly Greenfield never condones the lifestyles of her subjects, not like the insipid, soul-deadening, vain Real Housewives reality franchise on Bravo (in a surprise to nobody, Bravo has snapped up the broadcast TV rights to Versailles). There's plenty of derisive laughter to be had throughout, but you do wish that Greenfield had pushed further. Comparing the Siegel's lives to their live-in nannies seems to be given superficial significance. These immigrant women bust their asses raising the Siegel brood and one of them literally lives in one of the kid's super sized dollhouses. She literally lives in a former dollhouse. Choke on that metaphor. Then there's a limo driver who's had to cut back to make ends meet, but really the stars of the film are Jackie and David. Too often the film seems caught up in the "look how disgustingly rich they are" direction. This is a compelling documentary, to be sure, but it can lapse into an extended Lifestyles of the Super Rich and Famous.

David Siegel makes a very resonant observation in the film. "Everyone wants to be rich," he says. "If they can't be rich, they want to feel rich." Of course David Siegel's company made a hefty profit from making people feel rich at their resorts. Everyone wanted to partake in the same illusion, the same false belief that the good times were never going to end. The Queen of Versailles is alarming, fascinating, and beyond belief at several points (why do these people keep getting more pets they won't care for?). You'll feel a general sense of moral superiority but that's the movie's weakness as well. The super rich are characterized as extravagantly wasteful, and while this is a notion that will not break any headlines, the movie too often dips into schadenfreude that doesn't elevate the material. We're left with the sinking impression that this clan is stuck in their ways and ultimately doomed. Since the film's release, David Siegel has reclaimed his foreclosed super mansion, and now he's brought the asking price down to a more reasonable $65 million. It seems that you can lose millions and still not gain a lick of sense and perspective.

Nate's Grade: B
Super Reviewer
December 20, 2013
"The Queen of Versailles" is a documentary wherein time share mogul David Siegel attempts to build the largest single family house in the United States. In the process, he proves that just because something can be done, does not automatically mean that it should. That is moral #1.

His trophy wife and mother of their eight children, Jackie, sees the parallels between their new home and the palace at Versailles, forgetting how badly that ended, even though she graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology.

This modern day version does not end the same way, of course, but it does not look like it will end happily, either. That starts when the banking crisis of 2008 brings David's business to an abrupt halt which is ironic considering his support of George W. Bush who favored less regulation for the banking industry in the 2000 election. Thus leaving the new house only half complete.

Moral #2 is put rather well by one of the children when she observes that being rich does not solve any problems, since there will always be more.(Remember this the next time you are on line to buy a lottery ticket.) But that's pretty much it for any kind of meaningful insights here, as "The Queen of Versailles" otherwise resembles reality television in the cringe inducing way it invites the viewer to sit in judgment of its subjects, particularly on the subjects of the tackiness of the nouveau riche and birth control for both men and women.
Super Reviewer
April 3, 2013
The Queen of Versailles is a fascinating documentary of a riches to rags story. It follows Jaqueline Siegel and her husband David, who runs one of the leading timeshare companies in the world, as they build the largest private residence in America, but are devastated by the 2008 economic meltdown and forced to liquidating their assets. The film does an excellent job at personalizing the economic downfall, and at showing how it affected everyone from the so called 1% to the common man. And, it's refreshing that the focus stays on how the Siegels adjust to their financial losses, and avoids any attempt to vilify or judge them. While it's not groundbreaking, The Queen of Versailles is an interesting and provocative contemporary documentary.
Super Reviewer
December 20, 2012
A very enjoyable documentary with subject matter that is simultaneously hilarious and pathetic, The Queen of Versailles shows an incredibly wealthy family lose a good portion of their money after the 2008 economic crisis, and it depicts the family as being so preposterous it's funny.
Super Reviewer
April 26, 2012
A gripping documentary about the madness of money - both in terms of the excesses that people with it go to and what happens if that money suddenly vanishes. This is told through the story of a naive trophy wife desparately trying to find meaning in a meaningless existence.
Super Reviewer
½ November 15, 2012
Its an engaging, if a bit light, examination into American hubris. The worst you can accuse Jackie Siegal of is ignorance, and honestly if any other person had lived in such an insular environment for so long they'd probably have the same problem. In a weird way you develop sympathy for her and her kids.. David Siegal is another matter entirely, he's representative of the worse kind of wealthy American . . . the kind of man who believes he's entitled to extreme wealth and anything less is failure.
½ May 7, 2015
Sometime you wonder if this doc's subjects are aware of the same impending doom that the audience is aware of. A superb study of the rich and not-so-famous, The Queen of Versailles dares you to sympathize with these 100% unrelatable divas of fortune.
July 25, 2012
This is the Gray Gardens documentary of the twenty first century! Well, that documentary dealt with crazy "old money" people ...this time The Queen of Versailles deals with excesses of the American Dream and the fall of the nouveau riche. This was a challenge for myself just for me to view this film. The cinema verite' is reflexive and gives off a bit of the vibe of The Real Wives of Orange County. However after you put aside the reality TV effect...the documentary hits home when you see her childhood friends face foreclosure and her immigrant nanny cry because she did not see her son for over 18 years. It even hits closer to home when you see people who cannot control their excesses become kingmakers to people who handle American politics in the same fashion. And also hard when you realize how many people lost their jobs. You cannot feel sorry for this beauty queen and her time-share tycoon for they sold to people who could not possibly afford those time shares. It was all about fast money and power. Do I decry the thought about being rich. I hope things will turn out...well, they were not bad off towards the end of the movie...and if things got worse...I am sure they had a spare million at least... This is a reflection of the world today...and it is a very revealing documentary if you look closely at what is being said.
September 17, 2014
Fascinating documentary, much better than the trashy reality-type show format I was expecting. The details are actually pretty interesting. Jackie, despite her flaws, comes across on a human level. It's also interesting to see her husband facing the difficulties he comes across. Would be interested to see what happens with them in a few years.
December 25, 2013
The American dream turned nightmare, turned dream? The Germans made the word schadenfreude after they saw this movie
½ August 16, 2013
As a documentary, this was very well-done. Not rushed or insinuating, well-timed and well-filmed. You hear about these kinds of people existing, but to see such a raw account of their lives is fascinating.
½ July 3, 2013
As a billionaire's business goes down in the stock market crash, his (former model) wife and family have to readjust to a more modest lifestyle. The rise and fall of the American Dream. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
March 27, 2013
Truly the best kind of cautionary tale, where the hubris of one rich family can be used to show others the dangers of living beyond their means, even if they happen to be millionaires. Meet the least sympathetic 'victims' of the financial crisis.

Well worth at least a rental.

March 3, 2013
You do wish her well, but it's also hard to feel too bad when you see that what they're 'settling' for is 100x better than what the majority of the country even has access to. Remove the personal touches and they're absolutely abhorrent. A good movie in the study of empathy.
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