At first the documentary The Queen of Versailles seems like an episode of the Real Housewives or Keeping Up with the Kardashians (or any reality show on cable television for that matter). It follows the timeshare mogul David Siegel and his wife Jackie as they plan the building of their new Orlando home, Versailles. At 90,000 square feet, their new house will be the largest and most expensive home in the United States. The name of their new estate exemplifies their lifestyle. They have gilded furniture. They have tigers as pets. They have 17 bathrooms and complain how that isn’t enough.
However, the documentary began filming before 2008. Siegel’s timeshare business, Westgate Resorts, immediately felt the impact of bad loans and loss of consumer confidence. The documentary quickly switches its focus to the Siegels tightening their belts by Christmas shopping at Walmart, using an airline instead of a private jet, and trying to unload the half-finished 90,000 square feet mansion.
Poetic justice? If so, I’m not sure whose justice it is. Is it the Siegel’s for their outlandish, decadent lifestyle now faced with flying business class? Or, is it mine? Because in some odd way, the director Lauren Greenfield was able to make me feel [sort of] sorry for the Siegels. David Siegel is an isolated and lonely man who confesses he cannot derive any happiness from his wealth. Not from his house. Not from his wife. Not from his material possessions. And Jackie just wants to make her family happy. However, I’m able to immediately push any thoughts of pity aside when I remember they are building the largest house in America and naming it Versailles! Seriously Siegels, you may wish to rethink the name.