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I personally have never been a big fan of the Floridian lifestyle. Sure, when I was a child, I enjoyed Disney World to the utmost extent, often visiting the near-tropical climate during the rough New England winters. But since then, I’ve grown up: flamboyancy doesn’t tickle my fancy as much as it once did. The reason why I hate this materialistic, southern way of life is because even as a young one I could realize three quarters of the sunshine state was built with funny money. Florida desperately needed to be humbled, and it surely is in Lauren Greenfield’s 2012 documentary “The Queen Of Versailles.”
Let’s go back to pre-2008 before the economic collapse: this is where you find the backstory to this tale of utter pretentiousness. The Siegel family of Central Florida consists of David Siegel, his wife Jackie and their spoiled handful of children. They live in a 26,000 square foot house but they definitely need a bigger one. Greenfield's documentary follows David’s French-Revolution-esque quest to build the single largest private residence in the United States – inspired by the Palace of Versailles.
Money isn’t a problem considering that David is the CEO of Westgate Resorts, a real estate and timeshare company encompassing properties from Miami to Las Vegas. He also brags about illegally fixing the 2000 election so that President Bush won – a not-so-unbelievable statement.
This is no ordinary mansion David’s going to build. Remember, their previous house was only 26,000 square feet – not nearly mammoth enough for this overindulged cult. The Versailles mansion was to lie at just under 90,000 square feet, with 13 bedrooms, 3 pools (2 outdoor, 1 indoor), 2 grand staircases, a 20-car parking garage, a 2-story library and of course an indoor roller skating rink. I can’t forget to mention the 2-story wine cellar, the 2-story movie theater and the “banquet kitchen.”
The only problem was, David built his conglomerate company on bad credit, and when the economy crumbled back in 2008 (especially the housing market, his business’ feature market), the Versailles mansion was only halfway built. The banks wouldn’t give him any more credit because he owed so much money for his MULTIPLE partially completed jobs.
People, this is greedy America at its finest. The word “modesty” does not fit into the Siegel’s life in any way, shape, or form. Jackie feeds the kids heaping bags of McDonalds and does enough Christmas shopping to provide hundreds of orphans with gifts. David, when he’s not riding high before his back is against the wall financially, sits in his living room/office and tries to find a way to finish building the mansion he’s about to lose grasp of because the banks are coming after him like drug dogs following a marijuana scent.
David just cannot let go of that mansion, which leads to an ensuing less moderate lifestyle for his family – something they’re not accustomed to having. The children used to get brought to school in limousines; Jackie would buy $17,000 pairs of Gucci boots; David was able to host Miss America events in the foyer of his home. All of this ostentatiousness fades far away due to the ignorance and thick-headedness of David and his piggish company.
The film features the life of David’s wife Jackie for the most part. She is a former model who just loves being on camera, but in the end it ends up exploiting David’s stupidity much more than Jackie’s extravagance. She might be the literal Queen of Versailles, but this film is truly a mockery of David’s stupidity – so maybe he’s the “Queen.”
Director Lauren Greenfield must have had a field day following around the Siegels for years on end. It seems that she started with the intention of showing the eminence of an American family and their journey to build the largest home in America. Instead, “The Queen Of Versailles” makes the tastelessly rich look like disgustingly boastful and overprivileged idiots – and I think that’s pretty fun to laugh at myself.
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