Inciting Event: Mr. Ribaldi’s butler Hans attends Bonnie’s recital, and off-camera and unknown to her, reports back to Mr. Ribaldi who selects her as a spell-breaking candidate.

Meanwhile, the townsfolk are dismayed to find that yet another of them has had their home sold out from under them, and they’ll be forced to try to find work and shelter elsewhere.

First Plot Point: Bonnie’s home is bought out from under her family. Her mother goes to Mister Ribaldi’s house demanding he show some mercy and let her keep her house. He makes a bargain with her to let her live on what is now his property for free, provided her daughter Bonnie work there every afternoon to keep the place clean. Bonnie agrees to do it and meets Mister Ribaldi in an unpleasant encounter when she breaks his #1 rule—never go into the music room.

First Pinch Point: One of the townspeople’s children wanders into the mansion. They panic and start up a mob to go save her from the “monster they’ve been rumoring about, only to find her safe at home, and strangely, with her lame leg miraculously healed. Some take it as a good sign, while others feel even more creeped out by Mr. Ribaldi because of it.

The shopkeeper (who is the real land thief) finds himself having to pretend and lie more and more, passively going along with the town’s suspicions of Ribaldi to keep the suspicion off himself.

Midpoint: Mr. Ribaldi explains his curse to Bonnie through song. She admits she was wrong about him and gives him another chance. He starts to gain hope for himself and treat everyone more kindly, except for Hans, whose singing drives him mad.

Second Pinch Point: Everyone and their children are experiencing miracles from an unknown source. In particular, the pig farmer and his wife are overjoyed to receive a mysterious check for $10,000, allowing her to afford surgery for her crippling spinal tumor. But instead of focusing on who might have done them this kindness, the townspeople are too overwhelmed by the avalanche of property loss hitting them to consider the one person it could be. The shopkeeper’s son knows what his father is doing and is ashamed of him, but keeps it to himself.

Ribaldi sings a warmhearted song for Georgie, encouraging her to enjoy the springtime of her childhood and not be in too big a hurry to grow up. This sequence shows Ribaldi has become a truly loving creature to all who will let him, and shows there is a strong bond between them all. It raises the stakes higher for the low point soon afterward when Georgie, now the focal symbol of this love, has an accident that leads us to feel she might die.

The most pronounced pinch here is probably when the townspeople show up at Bonnie’s house and tell her to stay away from Ribaldi. She defies them and chooses to stay with him instead. He tells her she cannot come to him again, but sends her to the state competition armed with his transformative vocal training. It is a bittersweet goodbye. Once she leaves, he reveals his excitement about her choice to stay, and he and Hans celebrate briefly the coming end to Ribaldi’s curse.

Third Plot Point: While Bonnie sings in the state competition, her friend Georgie falls off a dam. Ribaldi is walking her home and saves her from drowning. He carries her into town to get help for her. His desperate efforts to save her make him look the part of a horrific beast. The townspeople, already at the peak of frustration over their losses to the mysterious land shark, perceive Ribaldi to have been the cause of Georgie’s mishap and all their own misfortunes. They drag Ribaldi into the street and beat him nearly to death, then trash his mansion until they find his financial ledger.

Climax: The townspeople bring the ledger back to the corner store and start reading off the list of Ribaldi’s supposed misdeeds. Instead, they discover that almost every transaction in the book is a payment on the behalf of those they care about, rather than the sale of their homes. The shopkeeper is wracked with guilt and confesses that he was the one stealing their property all along. His son embraces him, relieved to once more have the good man his father used to be.

Bonnie returns from the competition to find that Ribaldi has died as a result of his beating the night before.

The town all attend a funeral for Bonnie’s friend Mister Ribaldi, who loved them all even though he knew he’d be hated in return.

Climactic Moment: Bonnie and friends find a man who plays the piano like Mr. Ribaldi, and looks very much like him, at the strangely restored mansion. This man has no disfigurement however, and all trace of Ribaldi rudeness and anger are nonexistent in him. Bonnie’s friend almost reveals the fact that it is Mr. Ribaldi after all, but Ribaldi quickly but kindly cuts him off and warns him not to break the secret. The curse is broken, and somehow Ribaldi lives.

Resolution: Mr Ribaldi and his betrothed drive away, and he reveals in passing that he is the Rigoletto of whom Bonnie had read in a fairy tale at the beginning of the movie.

Comments: The plot pays a lot of attention to Bonnie’s journey from mediocre singer to local starlet through Ribaldi’s tutelage, but I found it had little bearing on the turning of the main conflict. Instead it served as an external symbol of the beauty she and Ribaldi were bringing out in each other and the people around them by teaching them to love one another, and to highlight the conflict’s theme of understanding what true beauty is. It’s a theme reiterated throughout the movie by the pig farmer talking about how pigs are kinder and smarter than some humans, the frequent mention of Ribaldi’s disfigurement and his unkind outward behavior, and the way Ribaldi continues to heal others physically and spiritually despite constantly convincing them all and himself through his outward behavior that he is as wretched a being as he appears.

Bonnie and Ribaldi’s character climax is when she chooses to stay with him and believe in his goodness despite every grown-up in town telling her to stay away from him, because that fulfills the requirement for the curse to be broken, and ends the conflict of whether the “Beast” can gain the love of “Beauty” and learn to love in return.

I centered this analysis over the thematic conflict rather than the character conflict, stronger on the Idea corner of the M.I.C.E quotient, I suppose, since it is largely a moral lesson, but strongly supported by character arcs.

(Submitted by Aaron McCausland.)

Sign Up Today

hwba sidebar pic

Sign up to receive K.M. Weiland’s e-letter and receive her free e-book Crafting Unforgettable Characters: A Hands-On Introduction to Bringing Your Characters to Life.