Examined Life
Directed by Astra Taylor
(Not Rated)


Savants of the academic world tackle life’s big questions.

Examined Life calls to mind “the most exhilarating college lecture you half-slept through,” said Joshua Rothkopf in Time Out New York. In her “heady documentary,” director Astra Taylor talks with nine influential thinkers, including Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek and Princeton professor Cornel West. Using a “refreshingly intellectual” approach, she removes these great minds from their desks and lecture halls to conduct conversations in public spaces. Each subject is given 10 minutes to pontificate, said Andrew O’Hehir in Salon.com. Zizek, clad in an orange safety vest, delivers a discourse on ecology in the middle of a garbage dump. Australian philosopher Peter Singer analyzes consumer ethics standing in front of Bergdorf Goodman. Every mini colloquium has a “degree of playfulness and unpredictability,” which becomes the “movie’s MO.” As clever as Taylor’s concept is, Examined Life is too impressed by its “brainy stars to engage them critically,” said A.O. Scott in The New York Times. Rather than genuinely awakening philosophic curiosity, Examined Life becomes a “study in academic celebrity.”