Versailles: 90,000-square-feet of wretched excess and shattered dreams
And what do you know, David and Jackie Siegel and their uncompleted-because-of-the-economic-downturn dream home are the subject of a new documentary film from acclaimed photographer Lauren Greenfield called “The Queen of Versailles.” The controversial film recently premiered to a sold-out crowd at Sundance and has been snatched up by Magnolia Pictures for distribution. This is all much to the chagrin of David Siegel who is suing both Greenfield and Sundance for defamation. Needless to say, “The Queen of Versailles,” described by Hollywood.com as “the ultimate ‘Real Housewives’ tale,” looks like most excellent but not necessarily easy watching.
The hook for the movie and the source of the title is Jackie and David’s thwarted ambitions to build the largest house in America, modeled after Versailles and based on a sketch David drew on a private plane on the way to Las Vegas. The design is a monument to bad taste, as are the hilariously tacky portraits that litter the house they’re still living in, of Jackie as a Greek goddess and David as a Roman warrior.But it’s also a testament to waste. Rather than using any room for multiple purposes, Jackie and David tacked 10 kitchens onto their monstrosity so they can have a sushi bar as well as other specialized cooking spaces. The house has a wing for their children, a place Jackie plans to ‘visit’ in one of the unintentionally callous things she regularly says about her brood. The basement is stacked with $5 million worth of Chinese marble, and Jackie has a warehouse full of decor she plans to use in it, from French furniture to giant replicas of Faberge eggs. Those piles of junk, and scenes of a garage full of unused bicycles for their children, or post-recession Jackie being coaxed into spending less for Christmas by her nannies and still walking out of Walmart with three sets of the game Operation (among other things) have blown past abundance or fulfillment straight to gorged.
Yikes. Still, Greenfield doesn’t consider her film to be a straight-out, Bravo-style gawk-fest centered strictly around outrageously conspicuous consumption and hideous interior decor. In the video interview below, she claims that the Siegels' real estate woes, despite revolving around a half-realized Orlando mansion with a bi-level wine cellar and a 20-car garage, is “really similar to what many of us went through in the economic crisis: having to downsize, having to deal with the possibility of losing our homes, having to deal with significant changes in life and also the stress on relationships.”