Sunday, January 27, 2013

From Riches to Rags

          “Nothing makes me happy these days. I’ll be happy when I can find a solution to this.”

            For a documentary that chronicles the lavish lifestyle of Westgate Resort owner David Siegel and his family, Lauren Greenfield’s The Queen of Versailles provides an emotionally turbulent journey through the rise and fall of the timeshare magnate.

            While it claims to be a documentation of Versailles, the largest single-family home in the United States, it reaches much deeper than that. It examines the effect of economic recession on every aspect of life, and therein lies its true success.

            The film focuses on one of the richest families in the United States; their tale touches a poignant chord that affects anyone who has had financial struggles. Family life is hit the hardest, and Greenfield’s masterpiece portrays the universality of the point hard.

            It is hard to decide whether to sympathize for or despise the Siegel family, but that is part of what makes the film so wonderful. The level of opulence the family displays is sickening, but Greenfield still manages to depict every argument and strife in a manner that everyone can relate to.

            The soundtrack, composed by Jeff Beal, is marvelous, and it covers every range of emotions from elation to futility seamlessly. His compositions blend effortlessly with the fall of Versailles, and in turn the fall of the Siegel family.

            The combination of Beal’s soundtrack with vignettes of economic despair truly represent the seemingly unattainable American Dream after the 2008 economic collapse, which is what makes this film a success.

            Unfortunately, watching the film is sometimes painful to sit through, whether it be from viewing the absurdly lush living of the family or seeing the pain felt by those around him, like from Virginia Nebab, one of their nannies.

            “I need to go home,” she says, revealing that she hasn’t returned to her native Philippines in eleven years. She left her family there, including her now fully-grown children and recently-deceased father.  The same conditions that left the Siegel family with a crumbling empire and home have left her almost destitute.

            In the end, it is hard to decide how to react to the Siegel family themselves. Greenfield portrays them in an unabashed light, and she manages to create an enthralling chronicle that nonetheless appeals to all walks of life. 


  1. That sure was quick. I enjoyed your brevity, especially when I know I lack that at times. But I felt it came at the expensive of examples, or concrete infobites that I could latch onto. Overall, I think you painted an accurate description of the movie.

    1. Thank you, good sir. Brevity is generally what I go for, at least with my writing style. I had killer writer's block for this one, so hopefully I can maintain that while adding in more concrete examples/infobites in the edit.