The first several minutes of the film are horribly uncomfortable, unnecessary, and confusing: several obese, middle aged to elderly women bounce and spin in their birthday suits. Now, I’m a full-figured gal nearing 50, so I wasn’t disgusted by their bodies -- but, in the absence of context, my knee-jerk reaction was to take offense. Are we making fun of them? Are we supposed to be grossed-out? What is going on and why? It’s an unfortunate start to what turns out to be an absolute masterpiece.
Susan has a gorgeous husband, an interesting job, a showroom of a house, insomnia, and general despondency. Her ex-husband sends her his about-to-be-published novel and, as she reads it, we see the novel play out. It was an interesting device because the "book" storyline was terrifying, but the story-within-a-story structure allowed me to remind myself that it wasn't real... “it’s just the book,” which is hilarious as I should be able to tell myself that about the movie I’m watching too… But it was seriously that
well done. When Susan would startle from the page, I was relieved for the reminder of its fiction as well.
In addition to the present-day and the book tracks, we also have a flashback track of her life 20 years ago when she knew the author. It could have been confusing but, instead, they weave together to make a film that's absolutely breathtaking.