Thursday, October 4, 2012

Pizza, Beer & The Queen of Versailles

Some things have definitely improved over time, one of which is the movie-going experience. While I have no memories of the screen palaces of old, I grew up in small-town theaters replete with sticky floors, screaming kids and spilled popcorn. Over time, and yes, even in my very small hometown, I watched theaters morph into small-screened cineplexes which might as well be home television sets for all the thrill they gave me.

But somewhere along the way, movies theaters continued to change, and this time in a really good way--with couches, alcohol,big screens and adults-only showings. What's not to like about sharing a couch, a pizza and a pitcher of beer with friends while watching a (albeit, second-run) movie?

And thus, my friends, is how Grace came to be watching the documentary "Queen of Versailles" last week-end.

Ya gotta see this movie!

It is, by turns, funny and thought-provoking and even a bit sad. It is also maddening--I dare you to see it with someone and not come out of the theater arguing.

Briefly, this is a documentary that was intended to show a billionaire family throwing money around on, among other things, a 90,000 square foot home in Florida. But part way into the filming, enter the recession. Money tightened up and disaster beckoned.

Let's face it. Disaster for a billionaire's family is NOT like disaster for you and me. Having to travel by commercial airline because the family jets have been sold is SO not an issue for me. Nor have I ever asked the bewildered clerk at a Rent-A-Car outlet, "What's the name of the driver?"

David Siegal, now in his '70's, made his money in timeshares. To be specific, he made it by encouraging middle and lower-class families to spend money they didn't have for vacations they couldn't afford and probably wouldn't use even if they could afford them. His sales staff encouraged prospects to "stretch" their financing to come up with money for his products. In the meantime, he did a lot of 'stretching' of his own to finance his ever-expanding global empire. That is, until the time came when banks refused to be 'stretched' any further.

His third wife, the much-younger Jackie, has impressive boobs as befits the trophy wife that she is. But she defies stereotypes. She has an engineering degree that she threw over when modeling proved more lucrative. She has seven children by David and is raising an eighth child, a teen-age niece. From the evidence onscreen, the children have a surprising amount of common sense. When Jackie says she'd live in an apartment if it comes to that, one believes her, even while imagining a lot of unintentional laughs along the way.

The financial choices made by this couple as they tighten their belts made me wince. Private schools for the kids were out, but limo trips to McDonald's remained, as did their commitment to their monstrosity of a new home. Never mind that they were already living in a 23-room Orlando mansion. David gets pouty because no one turns off the lights. Yet the amazing amount of money he is spending in a futile attempt to keep control of one Las Vegas skyscraper doesn't seem to faze him.

They went from a staff of 19 household workers to 4, and still the dog poop never gets cleaned up from the floors? Go figure.

The rich, at least the superrich, really ARE a lot different from the rest of us.

At any rate, it's a great movie. Made even better in a great theater with lots of beer and pizza.


Juhli said...

The theater sounds like fun! I imagine the movie was interesting in a train wreck sort of way based on the previews I saw.

Sharon said...

Oh Grace I've been wanting to see this movie! Jackie is. from my hometown, Binghamton, NY, so it intrigued me.

Glad you had a nice night out! ;)!

LC said...

Friends, couches, big screen and adults only sounds great! Or should I specify courteous individuals only. Okay, I am being a grump.

Grace. said...

LC, it's easier NOT being a grump when the discourteous types are on their own couch a decent distance from onesself, when there is plenty of space for folks to get in and out from their seats without bothering us, and when we're busy stuffing ourselves with pizza!

Jerry said...

If being superrich means not cleaning poop off the floor then yes they are quite different from me. The movie sounds interesting and if it's insurance for the normal ones among us to heed warnings and stay grounded then it's work it. It might even lead some of us to give a butler the night off ;)

Super Saver said...

The "King" of Versailles just issued a letter to employees that he would likely close his company and let everyone go if President Obama is re-elected. The letter has gone viral.

Grace. said...

SuperSaver, that's interesting. In the movie he was pretty much of a self-centered, self-pitying jerk. It was his wife with whom one had much more sympathy.

Revanche said...

*shudder* That kinda creeps me out. I guess I never was much one for watching anything along those lines, I can't really bear it.

The experience sounds rather neat, though. :)