Feb. 27, 2017
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"The Queen of Versailles" has to be seen to be believed.
Lauren Greenfield

Riches to Rags

The Queen of Versailles shows the American dream in reverse

August 8, 2012, 5:00 am

It began its life as a documentary about David and Jacqueline Siegel’s attempt to build the largest single-family home in the US. When the home was half finished, the housing bubble burst and the movie became a chronicle of what happens when even the very wealthy live beyond their means.

David runs, in his words, “the largest privately owned timeshare company in the world,” and he’s making serious money.

As the economy tanks, his company is on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars it can’t pay down when sales evaporate. Watching the Siegels try to rein in their spending, pay down debt and deal with selling a half-finished 90,000-square-foot home is fascinating, especially when David gets angry at Jacqueline (who’s 30 years younger than he) for overspending on their brood of seven children and one niece.

Of course, he doesn’t tell her the extent of the financial trouble he’s in, but what marriage doesn’t have secrets? Also noteworthy: David has sued the filmmakers for defaming him, but in this movie he says being married to Jacqueline is like having another child. Hasn’t he defamed himself? The Queen of Versailles has to be seen to be believed.

CCA Cinematheque, PG, 100 min.


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