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Lesson from The Queen of Versailles: Things Change

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Is Acquisition Habit or Sickness?

The Queen of Versailles should be required viewing for anyone who has never entertained the notion that things can change. Which is most of us. Because we naturally assume finances/relationships/situations/lives/health remain the same.

And they don’t.QueenOfVersailles-12022012

The documentary opens with timeshare mogul David Siegel and his happily enhanced wife (neither the wife Jackie nor the documentarian let your forget this fact) filmed at or near the top of their game. He’s making millions or billions (hard to say, it’s all so leveraged) as they sucker all sorts of “moochers” into becoming buyers of luxury timeshare condos. But the pair, with their eight kids and staff of 20+, are bursting out of their 26,000 square foot house. What choice do they have but to build? So they begin building a replica of the Palace of Versailles, which turns out to be the largest single-family home in the United States.

Then the market crashed and everything changed.


This is one of those films where you expect to find greedy people to blame, but the filmmaker does a good job revealing the humanity of the main characters. David Siegel starts as a blustery, boastful businessman who loves “beautiful women” and is not afraid to take credit for George W. Bush’s presidency (and perhaps the Iraq war). But he ends the film in a much different spot. Jackie, who remained buoyant (figuratively and, well…) throughout the decline is no airhead or bimbo. I credit the filmmakers, with their thousands of hours of footage (had to be), with portraying struggles rather than just one-dimensional portraits. Yes, the film is a train-wreck in progress and for that reason alone it’s hard to look away. But it is also a sobering look in the mirror at the varieties of greed that drive any of us.

I would have liked to see the proposal or creative brief for the film. Because when they started filming, it had to be a sort of look into the lives of the rich and famous. But by the end, it is a meditation on avarice and habit gone compulsive.


Written by kirkistan

December 1, 2012 at 9:45 am

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