The pink tank top clad wife of timeshare king David Siegel walks through the skeletal foyer of a 90,000 square feet replica of Versailles. That room-sized space is Jackie Siegel’s closet. The camera pans across a basement full of crates, “that’s what five million dollars of marble looks like,” Jackie says with a gleaming smile.
Despite internal feelings of disgust, envy, or even nausea towards the decadent family of 10, Lauren Greenfield examines the Siegels as an allegory for excess in The Queen of Versailles. The Queen walks through a hall of mirrors and reveals the tragedy of excess in the values and history that resulted in the 2008 financial crisis.
David Siegel is the founder and CEO of the largest timeshare company in the world, Westgate Resorts. Jackie Siegel, 30 years younger at 43, is a former Miss Florida and a mother of eight. In 2004 the family started constructing the largest house in the United States.
“Everyone wants to be rich, if they can’t be rich the next best thing is to feel rich,” Greenfield cuts from the bright lights of Westgate Resorts’ sign to a growling Siegel in his grandiose throne, “if they don’t want to feel rich they’re probably dead.”
The Queen effectively weaves the lives of the Siegels during their financial height, as well as when the economy collapsed in order to capture the moral of this story.
Greenfield did not completely portray the Siegels with malice; in fact, she reveals Jackie’s complexity as she slowly becomes the heart of the story. The film untangles her humble origins. After earning an engineering degree, Jackie worked at IBM until she was inspired to live her life as a model.
While she was physically abused in her first marriage, Greenfield juxtaposes her interview with a scene where David locking himself in a room upon a pile of papers threatening to cancel the electricity, and refusing to accept Jackie’s kiss.
“The American dream is raising way above what you’re starting with,” said the mother of Jackie’s childhood friend as the Siegels moved into a substantially smaller house, “and that’s what she has done.”
Though Louis XIV who had Versailles built for him, the Siegels bear more resemblance to Napoleons spreading a financial empire too thin. Instead of exile, however, they too get a taste of financial struggle in a culture of acting upon excess want.