Lauren Greenfield

THR Directors Roundtable 2012

One of the highlights of the Oscar season is the series of round table discussions produced by The Hollywood Reporter, and for good reason. We spend much of the fall and winter comparing drastically different films only on the most basic of levels, who is deserving of awards and who isn’t. Any real conversation between the creators of the best movies of the year is therefore worth watching. Unfortunately, the list of the participants is not often as diverse as the films themselves. This year’s directors’ round table was made up entirely of men, as was the one last year. The same is true of this year’s writers’ panel. Meanwhile, the one real opportunity for us to hear a genuine dialog between women in cinema, the actresses’ panel, was bungled by the typical soft and silly questions that plague American actresses. As Monika Bartyzel so astutely points out in her piece over at Movies.com, it might not be intentional on the part of THR but that doesn’t make it any less problematic.

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Before screening The Queen of Versailles at this year’s Los Angeles Film Festival, the film’s director (Lauren Greenfield) described the film as a story about dreams and what it means to strive for, achieve and potentially lose those dreams. The American dream is built on the idea that you rise past where you began in life and The Queen of Versailles dives head first into this idea taking us inside the lives of Jackie and David Siegel as their incredible wealth affords them the opportunity to build their dream house. Both Jackie and David came from humble beginnings and grew into the owners of the biggest single-family home in America (not that they planned it that way.) David found financial success through his Westgate Resorts timeshare business while Jackie parlayed her good looks into a successful modeling career, eventually winning the Miss Florida title (and David’s heart.) Their dream home, named “Versailles” for its grander and the palace it was modeled after, encapsulated what you give the couple who has everything – a home with a bowling alley, a stadium sized tennis court, a stadium sized baseball field, a health spa (to name just a few of its expansive amenities) and ended up with a home covering enough square footage to be considered a new “land” in the center of dreams and fantasy, Disney World.

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Documentary director Lauren Greenfield (Thin) returned to Sundance with another fascinating slice of American life – the winner of this year’s U.S. Directing Award for Documentary features, The Queen of Versailles is an unexpectedly amusing tale of delusion and disgusting wealth, toplined by a couple of American originals who prove to be wackily riveting. The film chronicles Jackie and David Siegel, incredibly wealthy Floridians best known for their attempt to build the United States’ largest single family residence, one they modeled after equal parts the Palace of Versailles and the top three floors of the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas. There is perhaps no other sentence that could so accurately describe what kind of people the Siegels are.

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