The opening scenes give no hint that “The Queen of Versailles” will have any message other than F. Scott Fitzgerald’s: The rich are different from you and me. While their 90,000-square-foot dream house is under construction, the Siegels make do with a 26,000-square-foot home. They employ a staff of 19. Opening her closet, Mrs. Siegel exclaims happily, “I have a $17,000 pair of Gucci crocodile boots…[But then the housing bubble bursts]…and instead of being a movie about the building of a giant house, “The Queen of Versailles” comes to focus on the drip, drip, drip of a rich family trying to hold onto what it has — and its painful, sometimes comical, adjustment to changing circumstances.
It was the usual prerelease scene: a reporter and a filmmaker, sitting in a Midtown restaurant, talking about her forthcoming movie. Known primarily as a photographer, Ms. Greenfield, 45, had spent much of the last three years shooting and editing “The Queen of Versailles,” a documentary whose boilerplate description — a wealthy Florida couple tries to build America’s largest house in Orlando — doesn’t do justice to the jaw-dropping scenes of consumption and comeuppance that, writ large, strangely mirror the fortunes of less extravagant Americans. With her movie set for release on July 20, the time had come for Ms. Greenfield to promote it…“The Queen of Versailles,” she added, was very much of a piece with her body of work: “What drew me to this subject was that I got interested in the idea of a house as the ultimate expression of the American Dream.” She said she hoped that audiences would see the film not so much as a case study in how the wealthy live but rather as a metaphor for how we all lived — and thought, and acted — during the giddy years of the housing bubble, and the painful ones that followed.
By Joe Nocera, June 21, 2012 NYT