Every so often a documentary comes along that captures the spirit of the age in an uncanny way.
You've probably already heard of the new doc THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES. It's about an extremely wealthy family who set out build their 90,000 square foot dream home, a vulgar monstrosity touted as the largest and most impressive estate in the world. A documentary crew is present to capture the people and events behind the building of the dream home. Soon after construction and filming begins, the economy bottoms out and the whole enterprise is sent into a tailspin. Billionaire David Siegel loses a large chunk of his fortune, his much younger blonde trophy wife Jackie must adjust to a change of lifestyle, and their 7 children and entire staff and retinue is affected as the changes trickle down. Through the course of the changes Jackie reveals herself as a real human being, while husband David does not emerge as a lovable figure. Perhaps not coincidentally, David Siegel filed suit against filmmaker Lauren Greenfield.
As a microcosm of America it is revealing enough, but there are more levels to THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES. It is very funny and engaging without being needlessly condescending to its moneyed protagonists. You'll laugh a lot, but you will also think a lot about the human toll of our collective economic misadventures.
Critics have been rapturous in their praise. Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post calls it "appalling, absorbing and improbably affecting". A.O. Scott of the New York Times says it "captures the tone of the times with a clear, surprisingly compassionate eye". Scott Tobias of NPR calls it :"the lucky case of a documentary where life intervenes and deepens the film in completely unexpected ways".
THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES opens August 3 at South Lamar. Tickets are available here.