I don’t mean to make light of Mischa Barton‘s sad situation, but what do you have to do or say to persuade the authorities that you’re a “5150” and need to be placed under involuntary psychiatric hold? Someone’s misery is not a joke and I’m not looking for laughs, but I know that all my life I’ve held onto a single concept of what it means to totally lose it and be seen as someone who needs a straightjacket. And it comes from a specific movie. And it involves heavy traffic on a busy city street.

The most vivid way of freaking out, I believe, is running out into traffic like a crazy man and shouting excitedly, like Kevin McCarthy did at the end of the original cut of Don Siegel‘s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (’56). The effect is intensified if you run out and slap the hoods and trunks of cars in your underwear, like Phillip Seymour Hoffman did at the finale of Love Liza. Or if you run into traffic wearing clothes but while waving a gun around, as Martin Lawrence reportedly did in ’96.

The fact that McCarthy’s Body Snatchers theatricality has been twice imitated tells you there’s something about running into traffic that registers on a primal level with Average Joes. Can’t take it anymore? Doff those duds and head for the nearest major intersection! Except what do you say once you’re running from car to car and knocking on car windows and all that? It would be tough dialogue to write.