The Queen of Versailles | Movie review
The owners of America’s largest home are cut down to size.
Surely more topical (and essential) now than when it was conceived, The Queen of Versailles plays like a Christopher Guest parody of the financial crisis. When filming began in 2007, time-share mogul David Siegel and trophy-wife Jackie were building the largest home in America. He brags about delivering Florida to Bush in 2000 (“it may not necessarily have been legal”), while his company, Westgate Resorts, pushes vacation apartments on people who clearly don’t need them. The family rides limos to McDonald’s and keeps more pets than they can count. The Siegels’ army of servants and nannies professes gratitude, seemingly sincere, to be raising this obliviously profligate pair’s brood of kids.
Then, in an economically predictable development that nevertheless provided the kind of twist docmakers dream of, the bubble bursts. Mass layoffs ensue. (Illustrating the effects of the housing bust in microcosm, the movie shows how the Siegels’ success had enabled jobs.) A just-built Westgate tower in Vegas leaves the company on the hook for $300 million. The couple is stuck with a home too big to sell (even with multiple tennis courts?!), and David, whose smugness initially seems proportionate to his domicile, skulks in his den. Jackie flies commercial to visit childhood friends in upstate New York (“What’s my driver’s name?” she asks the guy at Hertz). She’s informed one son that “he might have to go to college now” and expresses frustration at not receiving a bailout. Outrageous as that sentiment may be, she has a point: TARP-funded bankers are probably still living this way.