The Beauty of Being Uncomfortable
A review of “The Queen of Versailles”
“The Queen of Versailles” follows the family of Jackie and David Siegel, the founder of Westgate resorts and their “riches to rags” experience during the recent economic depression. Directed by Lauren Greenfield, the film masterfully captures an incredible fall from grace and will be on viewers’ minds long after the credits roll.
At the beginning of the film the Siegels are constructing the largest family home in the United States, a monstrous house that has been modeled after and named for the Palace of Versailles, in France. Throughout the film the family is faced with major cutbacks to their extravagant lifestyle as the company suffers due to the economic decline, beginning with the Wall Street collapse in September of 2008.
Witnessing the Siegels’ misfortunes is an incredibly uncomfortable experience. The film perfectly captures the feelings of watching a car wreck, combining pity and disgust with a morbid curiosity that forces viewers to observe wide-eyed through the entire debacle.
It is impossible to ever truly pity the family, as their wealth is so incomparable and their lives so strange that an average individual cannot relate to the Siegels even once they’ve lost their money and can only afford two nannies instead of twenty housekeepers.
However, this strange dehumanization of the family by their wealth is a remarkable phenomenon to witness and one of the most compelling aspects of the film. The blend of emotions felt, though uncomfortable and confusing, is a unique experience that everyone should go through.
Rarely does a film transfer smoothly from amazing to physically repulsive and back but “The Queen of Versailles” certainly does. The frequent shots of dog feces lying around the house showcasing the family’s inability to maintain their own lives are contrasted by the beautiful Versailles house, Rolls Royce and incredible dinner party spreads.
If there is a flaw in the film, it comes in the form of the subject matter. At times the actions and statements of the people onscreen are too shocking to forgive and nothing can be unseen or unheard. Their situation doesn’t deserve sympathy and yet we are almost tricked into giving it. The only redeeming personal qualities of the film are in the nannies, who demonstrate true compassion and selflessness in their work. “The Queen of Versailles” inspires, disgusts, shocks and entrances brilliantly, as much of a masterpiece as the house it is named for.