Directed by acclaimed filmmaker and photographer Lauren Greenfield, who won the US Directing Award for Documentary Film at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, The Queen of Versailles is a hilarious, moving and stranger-than-fiction documentary about a billionaire family and their wild financial ride in the wake of the economic crisis. With the epic proportions of a Shakespearean tragedy, the film follows two unique characters whose rags-to-riches success stories reveal the innate virtues and flaws of the American Dream. Jackie Siegel is a beautiful former model whose hunger for “the good life” led her to marry a man some 30 years her senior; David Siegel is the billionaire founder of Westgate Resorts, “the largest privately owned time-share company in the world,” as he says in the movie, and the object of Jackie’s “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” dreams. Numerous children, domestic staff and small dogs followed in the wake of their extravagant union.
The film begins with the family triumphantly constructing what was dubbed “The Biggest House in America,” a staggeringly opulent 90,000 sq. ft. palace, loosely modeled on the Palace of Versailles in France, and located in Orlando, Florida. Over the next two years, their sprawling empire, fueled by the real estate bubble and cheap money, falters and threatens to collapse due to the economic crisis. Major changes (some humorous, some poignant) in both lifestyle and character ensue as the family members, their domestic staff and the employees of Westgate Resorts all struggle to cope with the aftershocks of a ruptured dynasty.