Aug 7, 2012

A.O. Scott of the NYT was not

The only reviewer of Lauren Greenfield's The Queen of Versailles that suggested that one of the most admirable things about the film was its "objective" sympathetic take on our "protagonist", Jackie Siegel, the Queen, as it were, of this motion picture.

Well, Renee definitely felt more for Ms Siegel than I did.  I suppose I am not a completely cold-hearted cynical sort-of person that felt nothing for Ms Siegel, but seeing her walk up to the Hertz counter and asking, "Who's my driver?" does not really endear me to her, to say the least.  Nor does it to see Ms Siegel asking her children, "What was it like to fly commercial?" Or, hearing Ms Siegel talk about after the 2008 Meltdown had seriously hurt their family fortune and finances (not like those millions currently out of work right now, or the thousands her husband had to lay off) that now her eight  children were going to have seriously consider college as an option, and figure out what they wanted to be when they grew up.

Actually, the more I think about this, the less and less I like Ms Siegel.

Still, the real villain in this documentary -- that almost resembled a Christopher Guest film in places -- is David Siegel,  the timeshare king.  This is a man who has run through three marriages, has fathered over a dozen children, and never put one penny aside for his children's college fund. Everything he made went back in to his company or his houses, his wife or his personal acquisitions.

And, he refuses to abandon his Las Vegas towers or his uncompleted Versailles, which is still for sale with an asking price of $65 million.  That means that when he finally completely crashes there will be nothing for the kids, period.

It is illuminating to see  how his timeshare profession is not all at unlike the subprime mortgage meltdown.  He is a greedy, vulgar con man, nothing more, and there is not a drop of sympathy in my heart for him.

And, the kids are nearly just as bad as their parents; insanely spoiled children with no drive, ambition, dreams, or work ethic, who only seem capable of looking forward to the next time they will be ripping open a new gift.

I did not get to see anyone rich in the film cry, and I did not laugh nearly as much as most of the large, considerably older crowd that Renee and I saw the film with in Pleasant Hill.  I was too shocked and disgusted, I suppose.

The day those towers go down, and the day their Versailles is torn down and the land is sold will be days I might really feel a genuine sense of schadenfreude.  Until then, I am just aghast at what capitalism's darkest side looks like.  Why elections still matter.  And, why, sometimes, I would rather just chuck it all, and start the frick over.

Ultimately, despite a captivating subject matter, The Queen of Versailles is not a great documentary (I think it is too kind, too subjective) but comes recommended from me, still.  If you can stomach disgusting capitalistic greed, that is.

Ardent Henry

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