by Laura Hutson
When The Belcourt announced that The Queen of Versailles was opening this weekend, a chorus of my co-workers got really giddy. We're talking self-proclaimed Real Housewives aficionados standing side-by-side with surly music critics, agreeing on something like it was the Talking Heads or those bacon cupcakes from Sugar Rush. I'm hoping for a Grey Gardens-style of voyeurism — less infuriating than Real Housewives, but still outrageous and over-the-top.
I've got a date to see it on Saturday night, and I've got my mink stole and McDonald's Big Gulp on hand. And even though I rarely read reviews until after I've seen a film, I couldn't help myself from reading Steve Erickson's feature from this week's Scene:
It's become a critical cliché to argue whether the films of certain directors, like the Coen brothers or Todd Solondz, look upon their characters with kindness or contempt. As worn-out as this line of discussion may be, try writing an intelligent review of Solondz's recent Dark Horse without acknowledging it. And now the documentary The Queen of Versailles brings it up in a real-life context, as director Lauren Greenfield lays out a true story of excess and downfall that could just as easily been called Laugh at the 1 Percent.
Even passionate Solondz detractors are likely to have trouble holding back a chuckle or two as The Queen of Versailles' subject, Jackie Siegel, wallows in privilege — taking a limo to McDonald's, for example, or expecting Hertz's rental car service to provide her with a driver. Yet the film doesn't merely hold its nouveau-riche subjects up for ridicule. In telling their rags-to-riches-and-back-again story, it arrives at a leveling truth about the past few years' economic crisis: Whether you owe millions or thousands, foreclosure is a horrible process. Greenfield's gaze somehow synthesizes ridicule and compassion in a way that elevates her film above superficially similar reality TV shows like the Real Housewives franchise.
Watch the trailer below, read the rest of Steve's review here, and be at The Belcourt this weekend.