Documentaries have no script. They are based on filming and interviewing and then, editing the material. It is difficult for directors imagine how a project will end up.
It was unimagined that the story Lauren Greenfield was using for her second long documentary as a director would turn into something like The Queen of Versailles turned out to be by chance.
David Siegel (73), president of the largest timeshare corporation in the country, his wife Jackie (43) and his family are the main characters of Greenfield’s new documentary, which seems to be a TV reality show that illustrates the nouveau riche way of life.
The stock market crash on 2008 was what made this movie become something remarkable. The economic collapse gave Greenfield the turn of the screw she needed to make a pretty compelling ‘rags to riches to rags’ story.
Only the story is outstanding here. The camera seems amateur, out of focus sometimes. The characters, vain and self-centered, are usually overacted as they are perfectly aware that a camera is following their steps, especially Jackie, Siegel’s trophy wife, all fake and plastic.
Therefore, the story of this couple will drive the audience from laughter and irritation to some kind of Schadenfreude, the pleasure experimented by the disgrace of others.
The main issues during the first part of the movie are the construction of their Versailles à la Americaine, as well as the emptiness of their lifestyle and the hypothetical strength of their marriage.
However, when everything collapses due to the burst of the economic bubble, is when the plot becomes truly gripping as it shows the Siegels’ miseries. They define themselves as “normal people” but cannot endure living without servants or enough money to spend irresponsibly.
The marriage of Jackie and David becomes problematic and everything starts to fall apart, as if the whole reality the Siegels were living in was nothing but a huge house of cards. “Nothing is really normal about this life”, claims one of the Siegel’s kids.
Greenfield rejects to resort to the easy criticism on how everybody contributed to the crisis and gives an insider’s perspective of how many individuals fell into the trap of easy and cheap money and could not get out of it. And in the end, that’s what makes The Queen of Versailles a really clever and free of prejudices documentary: it lets the true go out by itself.
Image taken from Google Images.