Sundance Journal: ‘The Queen of Versailles’

Only rich people would use a phrase like “cheap money” and think that there’s nothing wrong with it. David Siegel and his wife Jackie are… well, were… billionaires. David owns Westgate, the time share giant of the world.

These are the blood-sucking leeches that promise you free trips, and all you have to do is give them a few hours of your time so they can hard-sell you into buying a time share.

Since the real estate market went belly-up, now David and his wife are finding out the hard way that things aren’t as easy as they seemed back when they were flying in private jets and planning to build a 90,000 square-foot house in Orlando modeled after Versailles.

Good golly, ‘The Queen of Versailles’ is frustrating on so many levels. Not that it’s a bad movie – on the contrary, this is one of the better documentaries I’ve seen at the festival. It’s just that watching these rich people whine about their lots in life is so grating. They’re so detached from reality it’s unfathomable. At one point, when the family has to cut back on expenses, Jackie (the mother) asks one of her kids, “So, how was it flying commercial?” This is the type of person she is. She’s absolutely, positively clueless about life, and it’s simply flabbergasting to watch.

It’s actually heartbreaking to see the stories of the family’s housekeepers juxtaposed against their opulent lifestyle. One lady from the Philippines laments that she hasn’t seen her own children for 20 years, and then the movie cuts to Jackie piling shopping carts with anything she can grab at Wal-Mart just because she can. Or Jackie pulling up to McDonald’s in a limo. It’s disgusting. You’re almost… wait, no, you are rooting for them to lose it all. They’re so callous and full of greed that I can’t remember ever seeing such a sickening display.

If you ever want to get mad – like really, really mad – then keep an eye out for this documentary. It really is something else. It’s pure, unfiltered decadence at its very worst.

Rating: ★★★½☆

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