College Times

'Queen of Versailles' Offers Insight Into World of Wealth, Demise

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Published: Thursday, August 9, 2012

Updated: Thursday, August 23, 2012

Queen of Versailles

Staring David Siegel, Jackie Siegel
Directed by Lauren Greenfield
Rated PG
Opens Friday
Grade: B+

There is no set definition for what the American dream is. We’re a melting pot of ambitions and talents, so when someone truly makes it from rags to riches, we pat ourselves on the back as a nation. This is where dreams come true.

However, nothing is ever that simple. Director Lauren Greenfield spent three years with David and Jackie Siegel and documented the hardest years of their marriage. Greenfield took a story that shouldn’t be sympathetic and made it universal.

David Siegel is the 74-year-old owner of Westgate Resorts, an impressively large timeshare company with resorts and destinations all over the country. Jackie Siegel is 30 years his junior and a former pageant queen. A one time Mrs. Florida, Jackie drapes herself in jewels and furs while walking around her 26,000-square-foot mansion and complaining about its size.

With eight kids and an abundance of employees and pets, the Siegels started planning a new home based on the Palace of Versailles. It was meant to be the largest home in America. A 90,000-square-foot home with two tennis courts, 10 kitchens, an ice skating rink, a full-size baseball field, 30 bathrooms, endless antique furniture and a bowling alley, the home’s estimate price tag approached $100 million.

Their plans are interrupted with the real estate market crash of 2008. Everything David has worked toward is threatened. The house is put on the market and the company lays off 7,000 workers. The banks start closing in on David’s company, which has been built on loans. The strain is felt throughout his family.

The riches-to-rags story is very well developed and Greenfield shows how the Siegels grew up in meager-income homes before their rise to ludicrous wealth.

The idea of the American dream is tossed around from different perspectives, and it’s heartbreaking to see it defined by David as opposed to their live-in maid from the Philippines. 

The Siegels’ lives are dictated by excess and appearances. There are also unfathomable displays of wealth through out the film that boggle the mind. Jackie enjoys taking a limousine to McDonald’s and binge shopping beyond her SUV’s capacity.

The ecosystem that surrounds the Siegels’ wealth is intricate and it is completely fascinating to get to know the ins and outs of their daily lives. Somehow it’s not all that crazy to compare yourself to the Siegel family and really consider just how we all fit into this wacky American dream.

– Ana Anguiano, College Times

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