Friday, January 12, 2018

The Queen of Versailles

Directed by Lauren Greenfield, The Queen of Versailles is a film about a rich family whose attempt to build a big estate gets into trouble due to the 2008 financial crisis. The film is a look into the life of David and Jackie Siegel who are the owners of the Westgate Resorts timeshare company in Florida as they struggle with a reality that they couldn’t foresee. The result is a fascinating and engaging film about the life of a rich couple and their family whose super-posh lifestyle goes up in flames.

Filmed in the span of three years from 2008-2011, the film follows the life of David A. Siegel and his wife Jackie as the former is the head of a timeshare company known as Westgate Resorts as it just had a huge skyscraper open in Las Vegas in the PH Towers. Then the 2008 financial crisis emerged as all of Siegel’s plans for the tower as well as construction a $100 million home in Orlando called Versailles starts to unravel leaving Siegel and his family that include seven children plus Jackie’s niece and a personal staff of people in danger. The film showcases this family that was once one of the richest that lived in a house filled with lots of people and a staff of 19 that suddenly dwindled to four including two nannies and a maid while they have to go places like Wal-Mart to shop for certain things.

During the course of the film, David, Jackie, David’s eldest son from his first marriage Richard, a few of David and Jackie’s children, the two nannies, a maid, and a driver are among those interviewed during the course of three years. Not only do they cope with the changes in their lives with the dwindling staff having to do more with Jackie helping out as she struggles to maintain a lifestyle that is becoming harder to afford. Especially as she has seven kids with the oldest at twelve while her niece is two years older than her as she had been adopted by her aunt and uncle since her father has no interest in taking care of her. For a family that is rich and wanting to make this house modeled after the Palace of Versailles in France, they would seem like the family that would flaunt their riches but they don’t really act rich.

Among some of the things that are shown that make the family be more like regular people is when David and Jackie attend a little league game one of their sons is playing at while Jackie takes the children to her home town in upstate New York where she reconnects with an old friend and tries to help her in saving her home. At the same time, the family don’t dress like rich people as they eat at McDonald’s and do all sorts of things even though David is around much of the time as the film goes on due to his attempts to try to save his business and the home that he’s trying to build. Even as he is forced to lay off employees which he hates doing where Jackie would meet one of her husband’s former employees at one of the buildings for the business as she wants to help him. Even Jackie’s chauffer would reveal the struggle that he would go to as he gets laid off and tries to do other things as he would be invited to one of their Christmas parties as he knows how much they mean to him and vice versa.

Much of Lauren Greenfield’s direction is straightforward as she would get to know them and try to show them in a light that makes them sympathetic despite the fact that they’re part of a small percentage of people that live an incredibly rich life. With the help of cinematographer Tom Hurwitz, Greenfield would capture a typical home life before the financial crisis which was crazy but lively to life after the crisis where it was more chaotic but everyone is trying to remain upbeat despite the fact that there’s a lot of uncertainty into what will happen. With editor Victor Livingston compiling three years of footage in capturing the rise and fall of this family who weren’t even rich to begin with.

Sound designer Peter Albrechtsen would capture the sounds that occur in the different hotels and places involving the Siegel family and their businesses that include a sequence of employees selling timeshares to regular people in the chance that a common person can live a life of luxury for a few days and not worry about anything. The film’s music by Jeff Beal is wonderful for its low-key setting with its elements of orchestral bombast to play into the lavish lifestyle the family is known for while it also show moments that are somber where Jackie is willing to stand by her husband richer or poorer.

The Queen of Versailles is a marvelous film from Lauren Greenfield. It’s a film that explores the fall of a rich family destroyed by the misfortunes of the 2008 financial crisis and how they try to save what they have as well as maintain a sense of morale for the family despite some tragic postscripts that would occur years after the film’s release. In the end, The Queen of Versailles is a remarkable film from Lauren Greenfield.

© thevoid99 2018


Dell said...

This movie...sheesh. I remember sitting in front of my TV in slack-jawed amazement as I watched it. The amazing part is Greenfield manages to transform Jackie into a sympathetic figure. Kudos to her because I spent the first half of the movie hating everyone in it.

thevoid99 said...

@Wendell-I'm not fond of rich people either as I really think they're not really real people as part of the reason why I loathe celebrity is due to the fact that they tend to flaunt their riches in front of us and to try and force us to think exactly what they're thinking whether it's about social issues or politics while they go back home to their fucking mansions and eat their fucking caviar while the rest of us fucking peasants are probably struggling.

However, this film did make me sympathize with them as it surprised me that they go to McDonald's and to a Little League game. I may not agree with the people they're associated with but I don't think the Siegels are bad people. I feel bad for the fact that they had to struggle and do whatever they can to survive as well as try and help other people. At least there's some rich people that are trying to do good and be helpful. I just don't want them to expect a fucking medal for their services.