"Walter was unique. He was different. He was a pioneer."
Famed Puerto Rican astrologer Walter Mercado reached international stardom through his big heart and lively personality, sharing daily horoscopes with the world to bring a positive, encouraging presence to everyone's life. Boasting vibrant, outlandish outfits, he was able to curate an allegiance of fans who became both knowledgable and obsessed over the workings of astrology. Though he had always wanted to be famous, he never envisioned he would reach the heights he did, that which saw him broadcast to millions of households every day.
In Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado, directors Cristina Costantini and Kareem Tabsch attempt to capture the energy and spectacle of the man who defied heteronormative expectations and lived a public life draped in expensive capes and dramatic couture. With full access to their subject and his current and former support system, the picture they paint is a concise one, even if it isn't always as lively as the man whose story they are working to tell.
The film centers on a familiar tale that features a big dreamer who discovers enormous fame, only to be yanked from the perky, white clouds by the hard realities that lie on the grounds of Earth. It's a tragic tale no matter how you splice it; however, it's one that we have seen and heard before as it equally affects those of all types. What saves Mucho Mucho Amor from succumbing to the sluggish clichés of old is the exuberant, charismatic presence of Walter himself.
Completed mere months before Mercado's death this past November, the film encompasses Walters's entire life, from initial creation to unexpected disappearance. To do that, the direction team takes audiences into Walter's private home, boldly interrupting his home seclusion. There he is working to come to terms with aging while focusing on his legacy and those he will eventually leave behind.
The artistry within the confines of this film is intriguing, even as Mercado refuses to tackle some of the directors’ most poignant questions involving his sexuality and his legal battle with former manager Bill Bakula. Both are contention points for the man who rarely shares information about his personal life as he maintains an overall sense of mystery that has fueled fan rumors and theories for years.
But that is who Walter is. Always one to focus on the positive, he made a career out of encouraging and uplifting people with a perspective rooted within their astrological sign. Negative energy was something he refuses to condone, using his words and tone to expel it from his fan's lives as well. There is no reason to assume he would stray from that mindset now.
But where Mucho Mucho Amor struggles is in its reliance on sitting interviews. Though informative, the structure's consistency prevents the film from fully embodying the electricity and personality that made Walter so intoxicating. Granted, we do get an occasional tidbit of archival footage from his daily astrological broadcasts. Still, outside of a staged meeting between Walter and Broadway powerhouse Lin-Manuel Miranda, we never get to see the world through his eyes.
*This film is streaming globally on Netflix.