Queen of Versailles, The (Blu-ray Review)12 Nov, 2012 By: Mike Clark
Box Office $2.38 million
$26.98 DVD, $29.98 Blu-ray, ‘PG’ for thematic elements and language.
In most ways other than nutritional or those involving overall taste and judgment, the likely-to-remain-indelible protagonists of director Lauren Greenfield’s access-heavy documentary don’t really come off as the predictable folks we love to hate when their actions (possibly oblivious) tell the world to eat cake during the worst economic years since the Great Depression. They’re not exactly like the everyday folks most of us know — though perhaps in their humbler formative years, they were — but they don’t flaunt their wealth (however waning we see it become) to belittle others. Flaunt it, though, they do.
Jackie Siegel is a somewhat surprisingly down-to-earth trophy wife (and generous to friends in need) who’s of buxom demeanor and no small amount of cosmetic “work.” Husband David, who knew what he wanted, dresses their house with paintings and other memorabilia of her in the way that, say, Pittsburgh Steelers fans might enshrine Franco Harris in their basements. With cause, David starts to look increasingly beaten to hell as his company (Westgate Resorts — billed as the country’s largest time-share concern) falls prey to the era’s economic meltdown just as he’s building the largest private home in the country, one where a clothes closet can be mistakenly taken for a bedroom. Jackie, though, goes with the flow as many members of the family (eight children; she gave birth to eight of them) begin walking on eggshells when it comes to even speaking to dad. And yet, David is no rich-Ralph-Kramden type of bellower. He’s just tired and feels abused by the bankers who too easily allowed him to borrow money in the manner that his own company does with its own preyed-upon customers.
There are all kinds of “characters” here, including one former in-the-chips financial success who had to reinvent himself as a Florida chauffeur. Interesting, too, is David’s relationship with a grown son who pours a lot of his own self trying to put the wings back on Westfield but doesn’t agree with dad on how it should be done. But Jackie’s Walmart/fast-food outings and bursting shopping carts are the heart of the movie, and her limo pull-ups to buy, say, $150 worth of burgers and fries probably contribute to the fact that the torsos of the Siegel off spring are somewhat less than toned. As for the kids, they’re not spoiled snot, and they may even have a better sense of the irony that’s going on daily than we think. But one does wonder what their functional quotient will be like in 20 years.
The clan’s domestic palace, meanwhile, gets halted in construction and starts to resemble the dirty swimming pool scenes in Sunset Boulevard (itself just out in a new Blu-ray edition from Paramount Home Media Distribution). With less to work with — though certainly it’s more than even much of the recently famous “1%” has — Jackie loses household control and can only toss a few more sacked-up Big Macs or Whoppers into the bag while mildly admonishing the kids for letting one of their exotic household pets kick the bucket inside its den or living room (say, where exactly is the living room?) glass housing. Greenfield films all of this with a straight face perhaps borrowed from the Looney Tunes wing of some mall’s Warner Bros. store. It’s all priceless (somehow even perversely touching), and I hope the picture gets an Oscar nomination in the feature documentary category. I’d bet on its chances before I’d bet on one the yarn-central time shares here.