Sunday, January 27, 2013

"Queen of Versailles" Review

          In documentaries, as in life, things don't always go as planned. “The Queen of Versailles” begins with David Siegel, founder and owner of Westgate Resorts, the largest time share company in the world. He and his wife Jackie are in the process of building the largest single family home in the United States, which they have designed in the image of the palace of Versailles.

         On a technical level, the film is mediocre. The cameras are sometimes shaky and amateur, but is a small price to pay for such an intimate perspective of the Siegel family and the real life conflicts they find themselves in. 
         In a series of dramatic twists the family finds it's fortune in jeopardy, and the struggles that emerge between Jackie, David, and his business have all the drama of a Chekhov play, and all the tension of an episode of “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour”. “The Queen of Versailles” follows the decline of the American equivalent of royalty through a stunningly profound examination of the stock market crash of 2008. 
         Despite being a non-fiction piece, “The Queen of Versailles” could have just as easily been written by a team of first class scriptwriters. The Palace of Versailles previous occupant went from the top to the bottom, as David Siegel does in the 100 minute run time. This historical connection makes for a compelling storyline, put into an exciting historical context.

          Sometimes Jackie, David's second wife, is easy to laugh at. She appears to be an out of touch aristocrat when she asks the rent a car representative about a chauffeur. But at other times she shows herself to be an intelligent, determined woman who cares very much about her children and her family. When their marriage goes from richer to poorer it is Jackie, not David who goes to the greatest lengths to keep their family together. 
         By personalizing (I hate to use the phrase) “one per-centers” the film almost asks for pity unto a man who climbed to the very top of the mountain only to fall off the peak. While at the same time sometimes painfully exposes weaknesses and faults that transcend class lines. In an age when the public tweets for a revolution, it is easy to forget that no one lives without a struggle. “The Queen of Versailles” exposes consequences to the dark side of achieving the American dream.

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