By Punch Correspondent Darryl Keeton
Pamelaâ€™s Punch was treated to a private screening of the film, â€œQueen of Versaillesâ€(Magnolia Pictures) at Landmark E Street Cinema yesterday. Now usually Iâ€™m up to date on most of the films that are creating a buzz, especially those recognized by Sundance this year (this film was winner of the 2012 U.S. Directing Award for Documentary Film). But this one was not on my radar, which immediately drew early thoughts of skepticism as I prepped for the movie.
Letâ€™s seeâ€¦ a documentary about a super wealthy family who decides to build a big house in Orlando, when something goes wrong. Mmmmâ€¦story sounds familiar, a documentary huh? Wow, there seem to be a lot of ways for this to turn out bad.
But with my perfectly seasoned popcorn in tow, I took my seat with an open mind and a critical eye, hoping to be surprised.
I was. â€œQueen of Versaillesâ€ is one of the most entertaining documentaries Iâ€™ve ever come across. Depending on who you are, this movie will likely touch all of the basic emotions of fear, anger, sadness, joy, disgust, trust, anticipation and surprise. Which is hard for any film to do but certainly a documentary.
The film opens to a scene typical of most any family. Kids bunched together in an SUV with mom and dad up front seemingly worn out from the dayâ€™s activities. You only find out that something is different when they finally arrive home and the gates to the familyâ€™s 26,000 square-foot mansion invite them in. OK but weâ€™ve seen the â€œLifestyles of the Rich and Famousâ€, MTVâ€™s â€œCRIBSâ€, â€œThe Beverly Hillbilliesâ€, no big deal.
But quickly we learn that with 8 kids, various pets, nannies and support staff, David and Jackie Siegel need something a bit bigger to manage the growth of the family. Their solution — a 90,000 square-foot dream home that is twice the size of the White House and features, an indoor skating rink, a bowling alley, 10 kitchens, three swimming pools, two tennis courts, a full-size baseball field and is billed as the largest home in the United States. It is aptly dubbed, â€œVersaillesâ€, inspired and named after the historic palace in France. O.K. now weâ€™re talkinâ€™!
This power couple of extraordinary means is on their way to the next big thing, when the economic crisis hits and changes their world drastically. The story that follows is an honest account of how real people, real wealthy people, who began with nothing, had everything and are now forced to deal with the economic reality of the post real estate bubble. While the documentary focuses on the entire family, Jackie Siegel is the central character. An engineer turned prom queen and ultimately trophy wife, she carries most of the scenes and whether you come to like her or not. She is authentic.
â€œThe Queen of Versaillesâ€ will deliver a new twist to Americaâ€™s fascination with the wealthy. It debuts in Washington on July 27th at the Landmark E-Street Cinema. Lauded filmmaker and photographer Lauren Greenfield directed the film. Running time is 100 minutes and it is rated PG. For show times call 202-452-7672.
For the official movie site, check out www.queenofversaillesmovie.com.
**Darryl Keeton is a distribution executive in the asset management industry. He and his wife Zoe Rodriguez-Keeton share a passion for adventure, travel and sports. Contact him at email@example.com.***