Sunday, 20 January 2013

The Queen of Versailles, dir. Lauren Greenfield, st. David Siegel, Jackie Siegel

A hit at last year's Sundance, Greenfield's insightful film tells the cautionary tale of David Siegel, holiday-apartment timeshare king, and his wife Jackie, a former Miss Florida, who along with their eight children, plan to live in the largest domestic house in America, a sprawling monument to extreme opulence, and set within spitting distance of the Disney Castle and their nightly firework display. The twist here, rather than merely selling a story of unbridled greed that continues onwards unchecked into eternity, is the impact the recession has on the Siegels, their business, and their dream home. Whilst Schadenfreudian impulses are predictable and possibly unavoidable, and any concession to pity feels like betrayal against those whose lives have genuinely been wrecked by the economy, there's something rather tragic about a family undone by the over-extention of their reach. One particular scene has Jackie attempting to cobble together a semblance of celebration for her husband's birthday; the majority of maids have been let go, anaemic fried chicken broils away greasily in foil roasters, and all around, the waste of their many pets litters the house. Like some terrible meteorological disaster that strikes with no discernible interest in who or what succumbs to it, The Queen of Versailles not only shows wealth as a rum cure-all salve, but also a rather sad portrayal of blindsiding insatiable success.