2 hours ago
Tuesday, 23 October 2012
New film: 'THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES'
Near the beginning of this film, before things start going wrong big-style, the family patriarch claims credit for being the one person, more than anyone else, who had got George W. Bush elected to the presidency in 2000. At this stage he, Siegel, had been awash with dosh.
He has a son from a previous marriage - and a further seven children (all within 10 years) with Jaqueline - also not her first marriage. This eldest son, older even than his stepmother, self-admittedly does not have a close relationship to his father, but he helps run the firm as a business partner. Of the three of them he seems the one who lives the most in reality, though there are still questions on his role - such as his mystifying continued loyalty to the firm even after the bubble burst when one would have thought he'd have wanted to seek gainful employment elsewhere.
The Siegel fortune was founded on property and land and also, in particular, a time-share holiday apartment venture - that is, until the stock market crash of 2009. That event happens before the film is half-way through and the remainder of the documentary chronicles the family's life trying to cut corners to save on resources - or, at least, he does. She remains as dippy as ever, with her several all-white dogs and her brattish brood of spoilt kids who are used to getting anything they want, while she finds it a bit too much to be expected to cut back on her own lavish lifestyle.
Before the crash they were in the process of constructing an addition to their 'collection' of homes - one that is modelled in scale, design, contents and sumptuousness on the royal palace at Versailles. Hearing her explain her astonishment, when told that this projected home of theirs was going to be the single largest one-family home in the entire United States, is alone worth the price of seeing the film. "We didn't mean it to be the largest - it just, you know.....'happened'!" (Oh, how we all know how infuriating it is to be the victim of circumstance!).
As they reduce the dimensions of their living space to something more financially viable for them, their children, their nannies and their dogs, Mr Siegel becomes more petulant in seeing that his family are not cutting back as much as he feels they should - evidenced towards the end by his explicit annoyance when his family continue to leave lights on, at which he threatens not to pay the bills and have their power cut off completely so they'd appreciate what having electricity means. She, meanwhile, goes Xmas shopping, filling up four large trolleys with gifts- including bicycles, of which the kids have a full fleet anyway! We also see the state their living areas have come down to - dog poo on the carpets and dozens of piles of the stuff on a polished floor (perhaps that was the purpose-equipped 'dogs room'?)
The film is simultaneously both sad and funny - and with more than a dash of schadenfreude at those who, when they had untold riches, used it with such show-off profligacy, then getting their comeuppance.
But, to be fair, David Siegel does say that he'd be okay if only someone would just give him $300 million. Meantime, the half-constructed 'palace' of Versailles remains a white elephant which no one is interested in buying while it's incomplete and also not least because the location is not necessarily where everyone else super-rich wishes to have their dream home.
Enjoyable, I give 'The Queen of Versailles' a...........6.5/10