Saturday, January 21, 2012

Somehow, I thought I'd hate the super-rich more after this movie.

Sundance always surprises.  Particularly the documentaries.  I wasn't sure I wanted to see The Queen of Versailles from director Lauren Greenfield.  I thought it would be just another example of the ultra-rich whining about how miserable their lives are.  But when one of the stars of the film sued Sundance and the filmmakers for libel, I had to see the movie.

The documentary follows the lives of David and Jackie Siegel as they begin their quest to build America's largest house. The filmakers should thank their lucky stars that the economy tanked after they started making the movie.  It certainly made for a documentary that delivers greater impact.

David and Jackie are ridiculously wealthy.  And Greenfield exploits that fact to outrageous and humorous effect. Some of the opening scenes are so out of touch and filled with ridiculous wealth that the audience can't help but gasp in disbelief. Oh, and then burst out in laughter.

What surprised me about this film is that I expected to revel in the fall of an out-of-touch, mega-rich, 1% jerk off. Turns out, I was struck more by the tragedy. I liked Jackie and I'm sad about her downfall. I feel for David and the stress that has invaded his life.

Sure, these are people who took advantage of the American population and an unregulated banking system to build incredible, unrealistic wealth. But they turned out to be people.  People, who reminded me that plenty of Americans are facing insurmountable financial difficulties.

The Queen of Versailles is a tragic movie.  Maybe a little too tragic.  It drags on at the end and left me unhappy. It's message that the American Dream is dead sparks more than melancholy, it inspires dread.

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