Movie 'Queen of Versailles' depicts lifestyle of a once rich and still delusional couple

Published Sept. 26, 2012

The Queen of Versailles (PG) (100 min.) — Consumption is seldom as conspicuous as the excesses of David and Jackie Siegel who, through Lauren Greenfield's documentary, become the Botoxed faces of American greed gone wild. Then the bottom falls out, their smugness disappears, and at least 99 percent of the audience can feel good about it.

David Siegel made billions by creating the largest timeshare rental company in the world, with Jackie as his well-kept trophy wife. When Greenfield began filming they were building the largest house in the U.S. — 90,000 square feet of luxury near Orlando, modeled on the French palace of Versailles. The real estate bubble padding their bank account bursts, easy money disappears, belts are somewhat tightened and Greenfield offers a front-row seat to their delusions of recovering grandeur.

The Queen of Versailles is a repetitive exercise in schadenfreude, and the Siegels don't do much to alter that. Mostly they cry poor, which is tough to sympathize with after continued shopping sprees and dinner parties while lenders bang on their door. The Siegels conditioned themselves to be clueless about how real people live through economic woes, and it's tough not to think they're getting what they deserve. Greenfield doesn't have much else to present in her movie, and patience gets tested waiting for another twist to occur that never does. Perhaps that's the point, that there's no way out when up goes down for people who never dealt with down before, and dubiously earned their up. The Queen of Versailles leaves viewers with one feeling about the Siegels: Let them eat stale cake. B (Tampa Theatre)

Steve Persall, Times movie critic