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Magnolia Pictures

The empress wears no clothes

Profile image for By Boo Allen / Film Critic
By Boo Allen / Film Critic

Cash flow blinds nouveau riche couple to reality

Something is indefinably unlikable about Jackie Siegel, the title character in the macabre new documentary The Queen of Versailles.

She seems nice and is kind to children and small animals. But Jackie exudes other qualities that dwarf any positive impression she might make. And if 43-year-old Jackie is a troubling figure, documentary filmmaker Lauren Greenfield (Thin) also wants you to consider Jackie’s husband, 74-year-old David Siegel.

Greenfield mines her documentary’s fortuitous timing. She originally planned her film around this couple when they were media darlings who were starting construction on what would be the largest private home in America. The Orlando, Fla., showplace would cost around $100 million and would reportedly resemble King Louis XIV’s famous palace outside Paris. But much tackier.

Greenfield originally picked the couple up when David’s successful time-share company, Westgate Resorts, was doing extremely well. He sits for interviews, quietly droning away about his new house, how much it will cost and what he and Jackie will fill it with. David even claims he “got George W. elected,” but then refuses to say how he did it.

But then comes the financial downturn in September 2008, and David’s empire starts to crumble. Greenfield stays with the Siegels through their fall. On the way down, David, not surprisingly, becomes more reclusive.

But Jackie, still caring for her eight children, seems to retain her seeming obliviousness to life as the necessary downsizing begins.

David’s grown son Richard works for his father at Westgate, but admits: “It’s always been a business relationship. … We’re not close.”

Jackie, no Mother of the Year, ends up taking her limousine to MacDonald’s before going home to a house left filthy by staff layoffs. A pet lizard lies dead because of neglect, and dog poop litters the floor. The house, made a disaster because of Jackie’s irresponsibility, indicates the fantasy world the Siegels continue to inhabit.

The garishly buxom Jackie prances around in her teeny shorts, hands on her hips, forever posing like the beauty pageant contestant she once was. David seems to work hard, even when facing disaster.

Jackie may be the queen of this Versailles, and David its king, but, as duly chronicled by Lauren Greenfield, they will never be mistaken for royalty.


The Queen of Versailles


Rated PG, 100 minutes.

Opens Friday at the Angelika Dallas.