This is no fairytale but it has a Queen, and that is Jackie- 30 years junior, trophy wife of the businessman David Siegel. The objective of this documentary film was to witness the construction process of the biggest house in America- a 90,000 square feet palace modeled on the Las Vegas version of the French chateau of Versailles. When the answer to “Why are you building the greatest family house in America?” is “Because I can,” we get a hint of the lifestyle that these characters are used to. But the storyline changes completely with the fall of the market and the burst of the real estate bubble, when the Siegel family loses some of their millionaire possessions.
This film has a different impact on the viewer. At first, one condemns the characters to satire and then with the sudden change of events, we learn to look at them from another point of view. Who would think they could relate to a billionaire family? But they weren’t born wealthy, they have a rags-to-riches stories on their backs, and they personify the modern American dream.
The course of the film and incredible good timing manages to give a twist to the story. In words of one of the eight Siegel kids: “There is nothing normal about this life.”
Despite the over-the-top expenses and an outstanding social agenda, the eccentric taste and uniqueness of Jackie Siegel is somehow magnetic and the extravaganza of it all entertains. We get many different characters, such as the nannies/full time mothers or the personal driver. And one of the most charismatics: the head of the family- CEO of Westgate Resorts- someone who “can’t separate business from personal.” During a period of cutbacks, the Siegels insist that everything changes, but you can’t get by without the support of friends and family.
Though the film-maker has been accused of manipulation, we get a close reality-show like contact with that life. It gets so intimate that we might me oddly moved by the story.
All in all, it is a contradiction of feelings that we encounter; sympathy versus shadenfreude.
Lauren Greenfield was awarded the Sundance Film Festival Directing Award in 2012 for her direction of this documentary. And it is well deserved. This perspective of the economic crisis is narrated in a way never seen before.