The rich arent different from you and me they werent ready for the recession either.
In The Queen of Versailles, documentary filmmaker Lauren Greenfield set out to profile David and Jackie Siegel, a billionaire Florida couple building what would be the largest home in America.
Home might be an understatement. David, who controls the worlds largest time-share company, and Jackie, a former beauty-pageant winner with a degree in engineering, had their eight children in a mansion outside Orlando when they decided to build a house with everything they wanted.
And by everything, they meant everything: more than 20 bathrooms, 13 bedrooms, a roller-skating rink, a childrens theater, an Olympic-size swimming pool and more, all nestled snugly in 90,000 square feet.
But a funny thing happened on the way to making a movie about goofy American excess: In September 2008, the financial industry collapsed, shutting off the spigot of easy credit the fuel for David Siegels empire, including a new time-share tower in Las Vegas.
Siegels fiscal house began to collapse and with it, the dreams of finishing his Floridian Versailles.
Unlike other documentaries set against the meltdown, The Queen of Versailles doesnt get into a blame game (the Siegels have some none-too-nice words for bankers, though). Instead, it shows the normally indefatigable David Siegel, beaten down by his quest for cash, working the phones day and night. It shows Jackie Siegel still a compulsive shopper, only its at Walmart.
Their still-unfinished palace is on the market; what the real estate agent in the movie cheerfully calls Ver-size is available at the low, low price of $65 million.
The Queen of Versailles also shows a glimpse of the lifestyles of the nouveau riche and free-spending thats a little different from the ones on The Real Housewives of wherever.
For all their garishness, the Siegels are pretty likable, even if attempts to make you sympathetic to their plight fall short. (Cmon, give them a break: They had to lay off 15 of their 19-member household staff.)
David Siegel unintentionally echoes the rest of us during a final interview, in which hes talking about the making of the movie but could be talking about the economys slow-motion recovery: This cant go on forever. Wind it up, please.