Queen of Versailles: A Dream Contorted
“The Queen of Versailles” opens on David and Jackie
Siegel, an Orlando, Fla., power couple. David is the
founder and CEO of Westgate Resorts, the largest
privately owned timeshare company in the world.
Jackie, the beauty-queen wife and mother of eight
children, perches on her husband’s lap. As the story
opens, in 2007, the Siegels are building the largest
single-family home in the country. They call it Versailles, after the French Palace of Versailles.
Then the financial markets crash. Westgate’s
business model—highly leveraged sales with mort-
“The Queen of Versailles”
is available in select
theaters around the
country and on Netflix.
gages quickly sold to investors—is no longer possible.
Customers are having trouble paying for the timeshares they own. Westgate is sued for unpaid bills
by the builder of its new 52-story tower in Las Vegas.
Lenders try to get David to sell off the partially built
Versailles and give up the nearly $400 million he has
invested in the Vegas building.
Cue the tightening of the diamond-studded belt,
Thing is, director Lauren Greenfield hasn’t set
out to create “Even More Desperate Housewives,”
and her characters don’t seem all that Kardashian.
“I wanted to tell a deeper, cinema verité story of an
extraordinarily wealthy family that had the ambi-
tious goal of building the biggest house in America,”
Greenfield said in a statement accompanying the
film’s release. “Their journey was a statement about
the American dream and the challenge the crisis
posed for that dream.”
Still, there are many jaw-dropping moments in
which the cultural insensitivities of the ultra-rich
are on full display. One cannot help but chuckle
when a cost-cutting Jackie earnestly asks the Hertz
car rental guy, “What’s my driver’s name?”
While that kind of voyeurism might bring audi-
ences to this 2012 Sundance award winner, it’s not
what the film is about. “The Queen of Versailles”
thrives on contrasts, but because Greenfield was
already filming the family before the financial melt-
down, their bizarre adaptation to the crisis is sur-