Thursday, January 31, 2013
The Queen of Versailles
I watched this documentary last night, and it was strangely enthralling. The gist is this: Filmmaker meets super wealthy, but very approachable woman who is married to the owner of the largest time share company in the world. Together they are in the process of building the largest house in the US (90,000 sq. ft., because their measly 26,000 sq. ft. property just isn't cutting it anymore). Little do any of them know that the filmmaker just happened to start filming at a pivotal time - the market crash of September 2008. What's strange is that you genuinely feel for these [former] billionaires, when in truth, what he was doing to the average person that he sold these time shares to is not much different than what the banks were doing to him. While the filmmaker still speaks very highly of the Siegels (the wife that you'll strangely love, Jackie, has attended several of the premiers), the husband is currently suing her for defamation. While I agree that perhaps some of the camera work was shady, I feel like the family was very direct and upfront with her. It kind of reminded me of My Kid Could Paint That, in that the filmmaker started with a different idea for the movie, and then by fate, they were just in the right place at the right time for a whole new story to develop. How could the filmmaker not tell that story. [Sn: It reminds me of the Golden Girls episode where Rose is sent to report on a dog show and a masked gunman comes in. Instead of telling about that situation, she's still asking people about their dogs while they're on the ground. Oh, Rose.]
Anyway, I recommend it if you're looking for a little American Dream, money = success story/nightmare. It received rave reviews at the London Sundance last year, and can now be found on Netflix. It's thought provoking; my grandparents hit their prime in the Great Depression and WWII and always warned me about this kind of thing. They would never miss a chance to tell me about rations (as i was eating a pound of sugar with strawberries, or playing with Barbies, several of which were "identical twins" because Mom would buy me the same thing twice on accident). My grandparents had money, but never spent it, so my mom made up for lost time by buying me everything she would have wanted as a kid. Her motto is "He who dies with the most toys, wins," which reminds me of my favorite quotes (though there were several) in the movie. Near the beginning of the movie, Mr. Siegel is asked why he's building the biggest house in America, and he swiftly responds, "Because I can."