The Queen of Versailles
So far, identifiable enough--a morality play of the sort that, inflected a bit, can feed the obsessions of either the Left or those who follow the Kardashians. But it works out differently. The whole thing turns on the attitude of filmmaker Lauren Greenfield, whose perspective is friendly-neutral. You could call hers a fly-on-the-wall style, but it's even a click further in the direction of sympathy; she shows up on the film's edges, asking a question or interacting with the characters, and it's clear she had total access. She is, it's true, being sued by David Siegel.
The end result accords closely with the familiar but apparently apocryphal conversation in which Ernest Hemingway told F. Scott Fitzgerald that yes, the rich were different--they had more money. The Siegels are not exactly likable, but it's hard for any of us to be sure that we wouldn't have responded just as Jackie did to the prospect of riches--or that we wouldn't have responded to the perfect sales pitches that built David's time-share empire in the first place. What's on display here is nothing less than the American Dream, which most of us pursue in our own ways, writ large.
Last spring's Cinetopia festival, where The Queen of Versailles was first shown, gave local viewers a leg up on independent feature releases from around the world. Several items from the festival program are coming back with a buzz, and The Queen of Versailles is one of them: it opens at the Michigan on August 31 and runs through September 6.
[Originally published in September, 2012.]