Meet the Siegels, glitterati who made a fortune in the time-share business only to see it crumble in the 2008 financial collapse. The site of their rise and almost-fall is their home (America’s largest), a gaudy replica of the Palace of Versailles.
Remember that show, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous? Robin Leach would whisk you into a world of fabulous frivolity, a place where all of the beautiful people live. It made me want to be rich so desperately! (Well, that and Troop Beverly Hills.) Well, The Queen of Versailles is a documentary that does EXACTLY the opposite. Like, I hope Robin Leach never lays eyes on this movie or it will KILL HIM DEAD.
Basically, the Siegels put the FILTHY in rich. Mr. Siegel is a time-share mogul, and Jackie Siegel is his trophy wife, and together, they have approximately a zillion children and servants, and they are living in a mansion while building the largest house in America. And then the market drops, and the money starts to disappear, and shizz gets UGLY. And also HYSTERICAL.
As the star of the film, Jackie is both ridiculous and goodhearted, vapid and well-meaning. She does not, as Garth would say, live in the now, and the things that come out of her mouth are BEYOND. It’s not that getting poor* changes Jackie; it’s that getting poor* exposes her amazing delusions. I’m not going to spoil the movie for you, but I need to give you a few examples of her AMAZINGNESS so that you truly understand.
- She literally says that she wouldn’t have had so many kids if she had known that she would lose her nannies.
- When she finds out that they’re poor*, Jackie apologizes to the kids because they will probably have to go to college now.
- Her dogs shit everywhere in the house and she doesn’t pick it up.
Y’all, that is just THE TIP OF THE CRAY CRAY ICEBERG. JUST THE TIP.
The beauty of this documentary is how willingly and openly the Siegels invite you, the viewer, into their home. This openness results in a disarmingly intimate portrait of a family that truly lives in a different world than the rest of us, and consquently, everything they do feels completely (and hilariously) foreign. It’s an exploration of wealthy and materialism, but it’s also, more importantly, a character study. And Jackie is QUITE the character.
*When I say poor, I mean, like, their net worth is only a million dollars.
Well, if you consider Miss New York 2009 as a familiar face, then yeah? Otherwise, all of these people will be new to you, and you will feel a strange mix of happiness and horror as you get to know them. Jackie is obvs the central figure of the film, but pretty much everyone in the house is on CRAZY PILLS.** Jackie’s husband, David, is a crotchety old man who basically lives in his home office (a place that reminds me of that Silverstein poem, Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out). The kids are kids, but they’re hopped up on wealth and irresponsibility, so while they’re sweet, they also, for example, don’t realize they have to feed their pets to keep them alive. You know, just the average American family!
**With the exception of the household staff, who are good, hard-working people that need new jobs immediately. Like, one of the nannies lives in the kids’ old playhouse. I wish I was joking.
Couch-Sharing Capability: High
This is the kind of movie that is PERFECT for watching at home with friends, because you are going to want to yell things at the screen constantly. Mostly along the lines of, “WTF!” and “ARE YOU SERIOUS?” and “HOLD THE PHONE.” Honestly, I don’t know how you could watch this movie alone, because there are SO many moments when you are forced to turn to someone else just to acknowledge HOW FREAKING INSANE THIS IS. Plus, after the film, you can engage in an enlightened discussion on The Price of the American Dream.
Recommended Level of Inebriation: Break Out The Bubbly!
There’s no need to get hammered, because this movie will make you feel like you are HIGH. But you can’t watch a movie about rich people without champers, so make sure you’ve got a bottle or two on hand.
Use of Your Netflix Subscription: Luxurious
Will this documentary change your life? No. Does it tackle critical issues in our society that must be addressed? Not really. But it is EXCEEDINGLY entertaining, and it does make you realize that being rich is full of pitfalls, especially if you have any white trash in your bloodline. So while this isn’t the most important documentary of 2012, it’s certainly the most amusing, and it will give you conversational fodder for at least a month’s worth of social events, whether you’re heading to the country club or meeting friends for $1 beer night at the local dive.
(I feel the need to clarify that if anyone was thinking about giving me a million dollars, I am TOTALLY cool with being rich, even though I just got finished talking about the pitfalls of wealth. Because, see, this movie taught me how to handle it, aka WWJND – What Would Jackie NOT Do?)