A Late Addition to My 2012 Top 10: “The Queen of Versailles”

My friend Julia, describing The Queen of Versailles, just said, “If you ever feel like you want more than you have, well… just watch this movie, and you will be so thankful for what you have… and for what you don’t have.”

I agree. I’ve never seen a more unsettling portrait of how money changes perception, relationships, and worldview than Lauren Greenfield’s documentary The Queen of Versailles. Every year, I end up adding a couple of late titles to my top ten list, and this, which I watched last week on Netflix Instant, definitely belongs on the shelf with my favorites of 2012.

It’s easily my favorite 2012 documentary so far: A fascinating and scary portrait of the lives of the 1%… or maybe the .05%… that will make you feel right at home among the 99.95%, even as it shows you some unsettling things about yourself.

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My friend and colleague Ken Morefield, who picked this as his favorite film of 2012, writes in his review,

If The Queen of Versailles were merely a film about proud or foolish people getting their comeuppance, it might be pleasurable (to some) but it wouldn’t be great. And I would argue that it is great. Because, really, what it is about is something more universal. It is about living with the consequences of decisions made in the past. It is about how experience is, at times, a cruel and indifferent teacher. It makes all but the most blind or the most lucky more cognizant of the little lies we tell, the little rationalizations me make, the little compromises we hide,  to convince ourselves that we are the people we want to be rather than the people that we are. One of the great spiritual dangers of money is that it allows us a great amount of freedom, and few of us, rich or poor, have developed the requisite maturity, intelligence, and self-discipline to exercise near absolute freedom without doing ourselves great harm.

Here’s another review by my fellow Patheos blogger Nick Olson.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet has two passions: writing fiction, and celebrating art — music, cinema, photography, literature — through writing and teaching. He is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” — Through a Screen Darkly. And his four-novel fantasy series, The Auralia Thread, which begins with Auralia's Colors, was published by Random House. He speaks at universities and conferences around the world about understanding art through eyes of faith. He is earning his MFA in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University, where he has worked for 11 years as an editor, writer, and communications project manager. His work has been recognized in The New Yorker, TIME, The Seattle Times, IMAGE, Ravi Zacharias International — and Christianity Today, where he served as a film journalist for more than a decade. He recently began a weekly column called "Listening Closer" for Christ and Pop Culture.

  • Nick Olson

    Glad that you got the chance to see VERSAILLES, Jeffrey. I’m with you: it’s easily my favorite doc. of the year–like a frightening advertisement for contentment.


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