Let Them Eat Money

A Glimpse Into The Lifestyle of The Crème de la Crème:
The Thin And Fragile Upper-Crust Society of The Siegel Family

-Emily Fraysse

A black, sleek stretch limo takes up three parking spaces outside of a hokey, off-white and sea foam green McDonald’s in Orlando, Florida. Nestled inside of the car resides Jackie Siegel, former Mrs. Florida and the wife of Westgate Resorts’ President, CEO, and owner David Siegel. Her long, straight blonde hair that flows over her expensive-looking leopard print, v-neck shirt is pulled back from her botoxed face by her black designer sunglasses. Her newly painted nails reach into a white paper bag filled with greasy French fries as she sits comfortably in the back of the limo on her way to her “cramped” 26,000-square-foot mansion where her, her husband, eight kids ranging from ages 2 to 16, nannies, dogs, and lizard reside.

The character-driven documentary, “The Queen of Versailles,” produced by Lauren Greenfield, is more than just a film; it is an insight into the intimate, fascinating, and sometimes perplexing perspective of the wealthy elite in today’s world. “We never sought out to build the biggest house in America. It just kind of happened,” Mrs. Siegel explained in the film trailer. This was, however, before the economy crashed in 2008.

Just as Marie Antoinette’s life seemed like a fantasy in her Palace that had everything she ever needed, the Siegel’s set out to build a house that had everything and more to accommodate their large family. Not too far away from their current mansion, they started to build “Versailles,” a 90,000-square-foot mansion that conveniently looked out upon Disney World so they can view the fireworks every night from their balcony. But, the house never got finished due to the lack of funds lost during the recession, and it was consequentially put on the market for $100 million.

While people may marvel or mock at the over-the-top, over-dramatize, extravagant, and sometimes downright nonsensical lifestyle, this is not just a portrayal of a wealthy family; it is a mirror of society. Living in a cyclical gilded age that glamorizes the wealthy as they seem to get richer because of being rich, while the poor get poorer, prompts different emotions. Most people who do not fit into the monetary status of the Siegel’s are not only curious, but can also be envious for the rest of the country that is reeling from the recession. But, when the interviewer asks Mr. Siegel if he gets strength from his relationship, he hesitates for a moment then responds with, “no.” I guess money doesn’t always buy happiness or support.

There is also a sort of hilarity in watching wealthy people struggle with their privileged life and who seem to be, at times, completely out of touch with reality. You can’t help but laugh when Mr. Siegel claims that he helped President George W. Bush win the election in 2004 in a way that “wasn’t exactly legal” with a large smile across his face or while watching Mrs. Siegel on vacation in New York asking the rental car company what her driver’s name is. Just as Marie Antoinette and her family had to vacate the real Palace of Versailles in France because of an angry mob, the bank is now circling the Siegel’s own version of Versailles “like vultures,” and who knows when the banks will strike? It isn’t until the very last scene of the film that Mrs. Siegel admits to living in a “fantasy world” while admiring the view of the water from her perfectly groomed front lawn, overlooking the waterfront of their mansion they call home.

Grade: A+

Image from http://butlerscinemascene.com/2012/08/24/the-queen-of-versailles-riches-to-rags/

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