There’s a scene in Lauren Greenfield’s likable documentary, The Queen of Versailles, in which the titular monarch, the wife of time-share mogul David Siegel, announces she is shoveling $2,000 worth of caviar into her mouth. “Somebody’s gonna get fired,” grumbles her husband, a former billionaire who is now desperately pinching pennies as his creditors tighten a noose around his troubled empire.
The film is full of such jarring moments, making it partly an American economic fable, partly a reality TV show. Like many such train wrecks, the story takes place in Florida and, like many a tale of real estate rise-and-ruin, it begins on the eve of the recent recession. That’s when Greenfield set out to capture the Siegels’ construction of the largest house in America – a 90,000-square-foot monstrosity inspired by both Louis XIV’s court at Versailles and the Paris Las Vegas hotel and casino. Among other things, its floor plans called for 23 bathrooms,