This movie has been something we’ve been meaning to watch for a while and even though it’s been on Netflix it’s been difficult to sit down and watch for some reason. I’m glad we finally did. I thought it was great and completely insane how some people are completely unaware of how life is for others. Also how sad some people’s marriages are. The King and Queen were more like roommates than lovers. I really don’t know how someone could live like that! As much as I would love for someone to be able to take me out to sushi every night (that’s not in the movie just my own fantasy) it would get pretty old if you didn’t enjoy the company.
There are a lot of really interesting things going on in The Queen of Versailles, but I think one of the most interesting things is how the nature of the documentary itself changed as time passed. In the beginning, it was a documentary about Jackie and David Siegel, billionaires building what was to be the largest house in the US (sort of modeled after Versailles, and they called it Versailles . . . though the real estate agent pronounced it “Ver-says,”). As director Lauren Greenfield filmed, however, the housing crisis happened and the US economy started to crumble, along with the Siegels’ fortunes.
The story then goes from a LIfestyles of the Rich and Famous-esque documentary to a portrait of a family falling apart. It’s hard to feel a ton of sympathy for the Siegels, as they are obviously still incredibly wealthy, just not billionaires. But David Siegel is clearly an asshole, not just because he essentially abandoned his first set of children and told his wife that when she turned 40 he would trade her in for two 20 year olds, but because he took advantage of the system that eventually led to his downfall. And he also apparently helped George W. Bush get elected, in ways that, apparently, weren’t entirely legal. So he sucks. But Jackie was an engineer before she married her first husband (David is her second), so she’s not unintelligent; her stupidity comes from not having to do anything for herself for 20 years. She sends $5,000 to an old high school friend, hoping it would save her friend’s house from foreclosure (it doesn’t), so she has some thoughts of others. But when talking of her children (she has 7, plus her niece that she’s raising), she talks about how she wanted one, maybe two children, until she discovered nannies and then just couldn’t stop having kids. They also have a million little yappy dogs that are not housebroken, and as their fortune starts to dwindle, their house gets shittier and shittier (literally, with those dogs around), as stuff piles up and housekeepers get laid off. Naturally, this means their dream of building Versailles (which was to include a grand ballroom, bowling alley, and a full-size baseball field), comes to a halt, which they must put on the market for $100 million.
Watching The Queen of Versailles made me feel weird, because I was feeling disgusted and jealous while pitying the family. The documentary also takes some time with the housekeepers and nannies, all of whom seem to be non-US natives with poor families back home. How they can stand to be around people like the Siegels is beyond me.
A benefit of watching The Queen of Versailles is that although it made me feel poor, it also made me feel pretty responsible, as I’m not insane and have a basic understanding of what money’s worth. This is definitely worth seeing.