CNHI News Service

Features

February 6, 2013

Rags-to-riches documentary ends badly

— Some truly stellar documentaries have cast light recently on the global financial crisis that struck with devastation in 2008, such as the 2011 Academy Award winner "Inside Job" or the beautifully shot "Detropia."

I would add to that list Lauren Greenfield's jaw-dropping "The Queen of Versailles," described as a "rags-to-riches-to-rags" story.

If you find detailed economic analysis intimidating and interviews with talking heads dull, "The Queen of Versailles" might be for you. Think of it as "The Real Housewives of Economic Collapse."

Greenfield began the project intending to document the lives of Jackie and David Siegel as they build the largest family home -- dubbed Versailles -- in the United States. Where the story leads will leave you amused, surprised, sympathetic and even angry.

Self-made billionaire David Siegel is the founder and owner of Westgate Resorts. His much younger wife is a paradox; the former Mrs. Florida is fond of Botox, spray tans and plastic surgery, yet she's also a doting mother to eight children, loyal wife and former IBM computer engineer.

Despite her penchant for dropping $1 million a year on clothes, Jackie seems like a sweet, if somewhat clueless, person. She attends her son's Little League games and volunteers in the snack bar. She adopted her niece, who had been living in poverty and neglect.

While getting her hair done, she grabs her phone and hilariously orders a 50-piece McNugget from McDonalds, "with all the sauces." She even sends her childhood friend a check to save her home.

Her husband, on the other hand, comes across as an arrogant control freak, albeit an intelligent, hardworking one. He takes credit for personally getting George W. Bush elected, both times, and is prone to statements such as "I've changed a lot of people's lives. A lot of people are better off having known me."

Text Only
Features
  • cleaning supplies Don't judge mothers with messy homes

    I was building shelves in my garage when a neighbor girl, one of my 4-year-old daughter's friends, approached me and said, "I just saw in your house. It's pretty dirty. Norah's mommy needs to clean more."

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Darth Vader is polling higher than all potential 2016 presidential candidates

    On the other hand, with a net favorability of -8, Jar Jar is considerably more popular than the U.S. Congress, which currently enjoys a net favorability rating of -65.

    July 23, 2014

  • Sparring justices find little disagreement at the opera

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg revealed a different view of U.S. Supreme Court on Saturday when she described about her passion for opera, one she shares with Justice Antonin Scalia.

    July 21, 2014

  • 130408_NT_BEA_good kids We're raising a generation of timid kids

    A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 25 hidden secrets in "Weird Al's" "Word Crimes" video

    Yankovic's 14th album was released this week, and it warms my heart containers that he's kept up his geeky brand of humor for so long. While he has written so many incredible songs, none have spoken to my love of proper grammar.
    Until "Word Crimes."

    July 16, 2014

  • ent_taylorswift.jpg There's less good music now — here's why

    Taylor Swift, the seven-time Grammy winner, is known for her articulate lyrics, so there was nothing surprising about her writing a long column for The Wall Street Journal about the future of the music industry. Yet there's reason to doubt the optimism of what she had to say.

    July 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • wheat1.jpg Backlash has begun against gluten-free dieters

    The swelling ranks of Americans adopting gluten-free diets have given rise to another hot trend: people calling the whole thing a bunch of baloney.

    July 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 4.21.43 PM.png A messaging app that doesn't use words at all

    About 10,000 people have signed up for usernames for a chat app that isn't even out yet: Emoj.li. It's an instant messenger app that uses no words at all — not even "Yo" or "Hodor!" Instead, it employs only emoji icons.

    July 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • lawgrad.jpg Things looking up for law school grads

    This might sound weird, but here goes: Now might be a pretty good time to think about law school. For the sixth year running, the employment rate fell, as schools produced a record number of graduates for an industry without the room for them. There was, however, a nugget of good news buried in the data.

    June 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • breaking-up.jpg Thinking about breaking up? Flip a coin

    In their latest book, 'Think Like a Freak," Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner suggest that, contrary to what many people have told you in life, you should quit. That is, when things get tough, you shouldn't always tough them out and stick with it. Instead, you should quit and do so sooner rather than later.

    June 25, 2014 1 Photo

News
Sports

Opinion