Monday, December 24, 2012

The Queen of Versailles

Yesterday I streamed The Queen of Versailles from Netflix. This documentary is about an extremely wealthy couple who are working on building the largest home in the US, modeled on Versailles. It follows their opulent and excessive lifestyle, with more focus on the wife, Jackie, who came from a modest upbringing and married the wealthy and 30 years older man after she won a Mrs. Florida competition (or was it Mrs. America?).

She comes across as good-natured but clueless, and utterly absorbed in consumerism. Her seven kids and niece are wondering around in the backdrop. The documentary also devotes time to the people who work for them, the nannies and the housekeeper, who almost always are wearing a grim humorless expression as they pick up after these nonchalantly, self-absorbed people.

The mood shifts after the 2008 economic crisis, when David loses all his credit. They have to stop work on Versailles and lay off many (I think they said thousands) of employees. Traveling to her hometown, Jackie is reduced to flying commercial and renting a car (at Hertz when they give her the keys she asks "What's my driver's name?" without a hint of irony). At this point David comes across as curmudgeonly and obsessed with work, and you sense deep discord in the Seigel family. In fact, I wonder if they remained married after the documentary ended.

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