Jackie and David Siegel, a billionaire real estate couple, were triumphantly building the biggest house in America for themselves—a sprawling 90,000-square-foot palace inspired by Versailles—when their timeshare empire falters and the economic crisis hits…
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These people have millions of $$$ but they feed their kids crap McDonald's food and their pets die of neglect. The American Nightmare. One of their kids OD'd and died, too. Probably while they were out shopping.
Fascinating. The wealth gap in this nation is horrific and as satisfying it is to watch the rich flounder, you can't help but feel for this woman who really believes in keeping spirits high and her family happy (even if she is entitled). The guy seems like a complete dirtbag, and it's disappointing that he's continued building Versailles after this film came out. But yeah, this is a great "only in America" film.
By (largely) forgoing cheap irony in favor of a rich one (pun not intended), the film presents as useful a view of the American dream—its noble origins and grotesque byproducts—as any offered this year in cinema.
What begins as a kind of documentary reality show about a wealthy couple building the largest house in the US, a 90,000 square foot recreation of the palace of Versailles, becomes a unique look at the 2008 financial crisis when it all comes crashing down around them. A strangely sobering look at obscene wealth and its carelessness humbled in the face of economic hardship.
There's a lot in this movie that's an insightful meditation on what it means to be wealthy, to make money, to lose it but it's a little long and loses structure in the latter half. I found the parts with "normal" people (the nannies, employees, childhood friends, even the kids) speaking about their own experiences (with money or with the Siegels) more interesting than the Siegel couple themselves.
In the end these incredibly rich people have all the same problems as the poor and middle class people their actions bankrupted. The American dream was purchased on credit, or "cheap money." The scene where the Filipino nanny gives you a tour of the playhouse she is allowed to live in - and grateful for - with their mansion in the background was absolutely heartbreaking.