cover image Complicit


Winnie M. Li. Atria/Bestler, $27 (400p) ISBN 978-1-982190-82-8

In the uneven latest from Li (Dark Chapter), a film professor looks back with guilt in 2017 on her early producing career and her studio head’s sexual misconduct. In flashbacks, Li reveals how Sarah Lai, raised by a Chinese American family in Flushing, N.Y., feels out of her element at Firefly Films in the West Village, where she tries to navigate the “complicated miasma of egos,” among them those of up-and-coming writer and director Xander Schulz and studio founder Sylvia Zimmerman. After Firefly debuts Xander’s first feature film at Cannes, British billionaire Hugo North backs the company, rebranding Firefly as Conquest. When the shoot for Xander’s latest is moved to Los Angeles, Sarah is left in charge as acting producer and must deal with Xander’s petulance and Hugo’s appetite for beautiful women, drugs, and power. At the center of the production is up-and-coming actor Holly Randolph, now a big star, whose backstory gradually emerges. Li skillfully depicts the ways in which powerful people exploit and abuse those trying to get a foothold in the film industry, though the narrative is at once overlong and underdeveloped, leaving the central theme of complicity underexplored. It ends up being an intriguing if not quite satisfying look at #MeToo in the film industry. (Aug.)