On the outside, Jackie and David Siegel are the epitome of extreme American over-indulgence. On the inside, however, they are, well, not much different—they have everything many times over, up to and including pets and children (they have 13 kids between them). In director Lauren Greensfield’s cultural documentary, Jackie, once crowned Mrs. Florida, is absolutely the Queen of Versailles, a beyond-palatial 90,000 square foot home made famous in the US by recent media coverage. Still under construction in Orlando, Florida, this modern-day Versailles is funded by Jackie’s billionaire husband, David, owner of Westgate Resorts, the largest and most profitable time share company in the world—that is, until the stock market crash of 2008. As stock prices plummeted, construction of the largest home in America ground to a screeching halt. Jackie’s spending is extravagant, but David’s pride is the couple’s financial downfall—according to his vulture-esque lenders, he need only rid himself of a single building, the most extravagant hotel in Las Vegas, to save their dream home from foreclosure.
Queen of Versailles tells the detailed story of Jackie and David’s struggles with their obvious addiction to wealth, and the emotional and interpersonal struggles that follow their loss of significant assets in 2008. While both David and Jackie grew up in lower middle class households, the two are extremely different—and David is 30 years Jackie’s senior. David does not discuss finances with his wife, whose spending habits are completely uncontrolled even in times of relative financial “hardship.” It’s obvious that Jackie is a truly caring, highly naïve person who uses buying things in an attempt to make the people around her happier—but of course her children are spoiled brats, and her husband is easily annoyed by her persistent doting. Yet somehow under Jackie’s gaudy fur coats, Greensfield paints the picture of a woman, motivated as a young adult to earn a computer engineering degree from RIT, now struggling to find fulfillment in her sparkly, completely surreal life.
Queen of Versailles is an extremely well-made documentary and will seize your attention firmly in its pink, glittery grasp until the very end—as the credits rolled I found myself briefly unwilling to move. Greensfield had managed to humanize two of the least human humans in America. In fact, by the end of the movie, you can’t help feeling a little bit sorry for Jackie and David—even after you remember that they’re building Versailles because their current 26,000 square foot home is frankly bursting at the seams with accumulated stuff.
By Genevieve Weber