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Film / Rigoletto

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Rigoletto is a 1993 film produced by Feature Films For Families, and tells the story of a young girl who befriends a lonely, disfigured man. When her family faces eviction from their Depression-era home, Bonnie begins working for Mr. Ribaldi in his mansion so that they can stay. Upon the discovery that she can sing, Mr. Ribaldi begins giving her music lessons.

Meanwhile, many in the town are being evicted from their homes and suspect the mysterious Ribaldi. The villagers spread rumors about Ribaldi and most believe that he is a monster. The children of the town, on the other hand, are drawn to Ribaldi. Incidentally, the sick and handicapped people of the village are miraculously healed. Despite this the townspeople threaten to keep Bonnie from singing in the state singing competition unless she stops visiting Ribaldi. Bonnie tells Ribaldi she will not leave him, but he tells her that to abandon the competition would waste all their hard work and insists that Bonnie forget about him and follow her dream.

While Bonnie is singing in the competition, Georgie, a young girl from the village, goes to visit Ribaldi. Along the way home, Georgie falls into a river, and Ribaldi saves her. When he tries to bring her to town, the townspeople attack him, thinking he has hurt her. Afterward they destroy Ribaldi's home in search of evidence that he has been taking their homes and land. Instead of this proof, however, they find lists of people Ribaldi has helped.

Bonnie returns home to find that Ribaldi has died from his injuries. While visiting his house after the funeral, she hears Ribaldi's piano being played and goes inside. There she finds a man who looks like Ribaldi, only without scars. When Bonnie asks him his name, he says "Some people call me Rigoletto, but you don't believe that, do you?" before leaving with Hans and Gabriella. It is implied by this that the curse on Ribaldi, hinted at throughout the film, has been lifted because Bonnie had seen the true beauty of Ribaldi's heart.

The plot is a modified telling of Beauty and the Beast with elements of The Phantom of the Opera. No relation to the opera Rigoletto.

This film provides examples of:

  • Abomination Accusation Attack: The townsfolk launch a number of unjust accusations at Mr. Ribaldi.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Mr. Ribaldi is surprisingly popular with the ladies.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Was Mr. Ribaldi cursed, or was his face just injured? Even more ambiguously: is the man at the end of the story really Mr. Ribaldi Back from the Dead? And how much of the story actually happened?
  • Angel Face, Demon Face: Mr. Ribaldi.
  • Artistic License – Law: The climax hinges on Mr. Ribaldi getting falsely accused of buying several of the townspeople's homes and forcing them out (it was actually someone else). But in Real Life, the true buyer's identity most likely would have been public knowledge: when someone buys land in the United States, they nearly always have to pay a property tax to the county or municipality where it's located, and property tax records are usually publicly accessible. Apparently, nobody in the town bothered to investigate who was evicting them.
  • Back from the Dead: Mr. Ribaldi.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Bonnie and the Princess Gabriella. Played With in the case of Mr. Ribaldi. His demeanour is about as ugly as his face, but he's also pretty much the most altruistic characters in the film. Bonnie also invokes the trope in regards to his beautiful singing voice, firmly believing that an evil person couldn't possibly produce such beautiful music.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Bonnie's singing rival.
  • Butt-Monkey: Hans, especially when he tries to sing. Mr. Ribaldi hits him with his cane and throws a book at him on one occasion, but Hans doesn't really mind.
  • Character Development: Mr. Ribaldi is all about character development.
  • Come to Gawk: The kids tried their hand at this early on.
  • Curse Escape Clause: Mr. Ribaldi will return to normal if, and only if, someone truly loves the inner him. Given that he already has Gabriella, though, it probably had to be non-romantic love.
  • Despair Event Horizon: After Mr. Ribaldi makes Bonnie leave for the contest, the audiance is lead to believe this is inevitable. But this is quickly subverted.
  • Disappeared Dad: Bonnie's father is never mentioned.
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: "The Melody Within".
  • Food as Bribe: In exchange for promising never to venture into Ribaldi's quarters, Hans promises to make Bonnie any dessert she requests each day that she works in Ribaldi's home. She chooses banana split.
  • Foreshadowing: When the townspeople think that Mr. Ribaldi has kidnapped Papanickolas's little girl they start to head up to torch Mr. Ribaldi's mansion, but the little girl stops them before they get a chance. Later on the townspeople actually manage it when they think Mr. Ribaldi has drowned Georgie in the dam.
    • Which is, in itself foreshadowed when Bonnie's mother tells the children not to play by the dam.
  • Friend to All Children: Turns out Mr. Ribaldi is.
  • Good All Along: Mr. Ribaldi, as it turns out. Despite his fiery temper and general threatening aura, he's revealed to have been secretly using his wealth to help the people of the town, healing their sicknesses and ailments without taking any credit.
  • The Great Depression: The primary setting of the movie.
  • Happily Ever After: Bonnie wins the singing competition, and Mr. Ribaldi's deformed face is fixed (maybe...).
  • Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Poor Hans really does try to sing but fails miserably. Averted with Bonnie, who actually sounds like a pretty realistic example of an untrained amateur singer (albeit one with potential) who has more passion than skill.
  • Homage: Beauty and the Beast.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: The townspeople qualifiy.
  • I Just Want to Be Beautiful: This is Mr. Ribaldi's desire, after being transformed from a handsome prince into a terrifying scarred man.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Bonnie. She's humble, hardworking, patient, honest, kind to everyone she meets (even people who mistreat her), has no glaringly negative traits, and resists every possible temptation to do anything remotely bad. Even the handful of times she calls Ribaldi out on his jerkishness, it comes off more as Brutal Honesty (and being an Excellent Judge of Character) than like genuine meanness.
  • Informed Ability: Mr. Ribaldi ostensibly has such a beautiful singing voice that Bonnie is left speechless upon hearing it, and immediately comes to the conclusion that he can't possibly be evil (because only someone with a pure heart could produce music so beautiful). While his actor certainly isn't a bad singer, most viewers will likely find that to be a bit of an overstatement.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Ribaldi and Bonnie.
  • Ironic Name: "Ribald" means "fond of coarse and irreverent humor", which Signor Ribaldi most definitely isn't.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Mr. Ribaldi starts off as this until he meets Bonnie. Quite a lot of the male adults who have lost their jobs and are under a lot of pressure would probably come under this category as well.
    • Except considering their actions towards Mr. Ribaldi, many would probably constitute as Jerk with a Heart of Jerk.
      • Although they do repent and feel sorry for their actions when the truth comes out.
  • Love Redeems: Thanks to Bonnie, Mr. Ribaldi becomes a kinder person.
  • Magic Mirror
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It's left deliberately ambiguous whether Mr. Ribaldi's deformed face is the result of a magical curse or a mundane injury. And at the end of the film, it's similarly left ambiguous whether he's been brought Back from the Dead with his deformities healed—or if Bonnie just imagined the whole thing.
  • Meaningful Name: "Bonnie" is derived from the Latin word for "good", which is quite appropriate for an unfailingly kind and humble girl who sees the best in everyone.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: This is the reaction from the townsfolk after the incident with Mr. Ribaldi.
  • Never Trust a Title: The film's connection to the opera Rigoletto is pretty tenuous, with the story being predominately inspired by Beauty and the Beast. Rigoletto was a hunchbacked jester who accidentally had his daughter murdered due to a curse (maybe...); Signor Ribaldi is a tormented nobleman and singer with a deformed face caused by a curse that can only be lifted by an act of nobility and goodness (maybe...).
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Ribaldi and Gabriella speak with American accents, even though they really shouldn't (Ribaldi is ostensibly Italian, and Gabriella is ostensibly either Italian or Spanish). Ribaldi's butler Hans (who's ostensibly either German or Austrian) does have a slight German accent, but it comes and goes.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: Mr. Ribaldi. He's a bit hot-tempered and arrogant, but ultimately a much better person than most people give him credit for.
  • Setting Update: It's Beauty and the Beast set in America during the Great Depression, but with the love story reimagined as a platonic Intergenerational Friendship between a girl and her singing teacher. (Despite the title, the story doesn't actually have that much in common with the opera Rigoletto)
  • Story Within a Story: Maybe. The Book Ends make it rather vague as to where the separation is - if there even is one.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: When the townspeople come to wreck Mr. Ribaldi's mansion.
  • True Beauty Is on the Inside: One of the defining themes.