Lauren Greenfield’s documentary tracks the construction of the biggest private residence in America, billionaire David Siegel’s 90,000-square-foot behemoth inspired by the Palace of Versailles. But there was one big curve ball as the home was half completed: the 2008 recession hit Siegel’s time-share business hard, turning Greenfield’s movie into a timely cautionary tale about our rapidly changing economic landscape.
The Queen of title refers to David’s trophy-wife Jackie, a former beauty queen whose garish lifestyle evaporates before her eyes and whose rags-to-riches-to-recession story provides the narrative’s emotional spine. Siegel, a newly humbled man who’s more than 20 years older than his wife, spends most of his time scrambling to find money to support a multimillion-dollar Las Vegas venture and trying to sell the unfinished mansion, only interacting with Jackie and his children when absolutely necessary. Greenfield largely stays out of the way, letting the story’s overarching thematic relevance and the Siegels’ struggles to adapt to their new realities evolve naturally. The Queen of Versailles is an intimate, often engrossing tale that just happens to be an apt metaphor for a worldwide realignment. Now at Esquire Theatre. (PG) Grade: A-