directed by Lauren Greenfield
by Angelo Muredda Lauren Greenfield's greatest boon with The Queen of Versailles, an absorbing and unfailingly intelligent documentary that rises Phoenix-like out of some spotty origins, might lie in how it makes the life of two wealthy Americans seem unliveable, stressed on the verge of system collapse. Starting in the heyday of time-share emperor and Westgate Resorts CEO David Siegel (who ambiguously claims to have gotten Bush 2.0 elected in 2000, but won't explain how), the film starts off--and hints at its initial purpose--as a portrait of an industrious man building himself a monument, a house to contain his every desire. A smart but not tasteful man, he models the 90,000 square foot Orlando palace after Versailles; when asked why he needs to build it at all when his current home is already enormous (although, as he points out, "bursting at the seams"), he simply smiles and says, "Because I can." But pride, as they say, goes before the fall, and the recession hits before Versailles can be completed, leaving each of David's two hands on a very costly loose end: a massive unfinished home that's impossible to sell in a collapsed housing market; and a resort industry that filled its coffers with the life-savings of the newly foreclosed, run on hypothetical money that has run out of currency.