Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Film Finds Humor, Pathos in 'Versailles'

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Film Finds Humor, Pathos in 'Versailles'

Article excerpt

ORLANDO, Fla. --

It's probably a bit much to expect someone to stay friends with a documentary filmmaker who has shown your financial problems and general tackiness to the world.

And it's not as if nobody has seen "The Queen of Versailles." It was an award winner at Sundance just now going into general release. It and the family it follows have garnered reviews referring to the tastes, child-and-pet-rearing shortcomings and rich gaucherie of Orlando's Siegel family -- timeshare mogul David and self-described "trophy" wife Jackie. Their extravagance is "a cruel joke" (Salon.com) and the film about them is "like a champagne bath laced with arsenic" (Entertainment Weekly)

But there's Jacqueline "Jackie" Siegel, doing the red carpet at festivals and premieres with filmmaker Lauren Greenfield. Plainly, they're still on speaking terms.

Ms. Greenfield, 46, got to know Siegels over the course of three years, capturing them at their peak as they built a 90,000-square- foot Versailles palace replica in Orlando, following them as the housing/ banking/ lending/ time-share market collapsed vastly reduced their fortune and aspirations. Did the photographer- filmmaker (the eating disorder documentary "Thin" was hers) ever fret over how her subjects were coming off on camera?

"I don't divorce myself from my feelings for them," Ms. Greenfield says. "I still consider Jackie a friend. She's 200 feet down the hall from me, right now, getting ready for the New York premiere.

"Their virtues and their flaws really allow us to see our own. Their candor, their willingness to be themselves, was very endearing."

The film introduces a cocky, confident 70something David Siegel and briefly shows the business that made him rich -- selling middle- and working-class people chunks of time in swank Westgate resorts at assorted properties around the country. But mainly, it follows Jackie Siegel, Mr. Siegel's much-younger wife, as she shops, fails to raise her own vast brood of kids, never house trains her pets and shows off every vulgar Jackie- and David-commissioned family portrait in the 26,000-square-foot home that they've decided isn't big enough for them. …

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