Written by: Patrick Howard | July 7th, 2020
Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado (Cristina Costantini/Kareem Tabsch) 3½ out of 4 stars.
We, the habitants of Earth, are suffering right now, and learning about the nonconforming power and potent sincerity of legendary television astrologer Walter Mercado is exactly the type of content we need to hope for a brighter tomorrow. In Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado, we learn that during the 1980s and 1990s the world was blessed with an individual whose influence and power seemed unparalleled at the time. Who could reach an audience so successfully? The President of the United States? No, some would argue it was the Puerto Rican television astrologer Walter Mercado.
Much like Hulu’s Ask Dr. Ruth, a 2019 documentary about famed sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Mucho Mucho Amor is a wonderfully fulfilling delight for an unsuspecting viewer. As a millennial, I can wholeheartedly admit that I never knew either of these two figures until I watched their respective documentaries. Diving headfirst into Mercado’s career was an unprecedented pop-culture shock. For nearly three decades, this gender-nonconforming icon locked in the attention of millions of people all across the Americas with his high production-value televised horoscopes.
By the time we meet Mr. Mercado in the final two years of his life, I, along with fans like Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda, began to wonder: how someone with such an impactful legacy could have seemingly vanished off the face of the planet and subsequently faded into obscurity? Directors Cristina Costantini (Science Fair) and Kareem Tabsch (The Last Resort) depict the highs and lows of Walter Mercado’s career with expert precision, breaking it up into nicely developed stages of life. We learn that Mercado was always a beacon of hope, even at a young age. However, Mercado was admittedly naïve when it came to the business side of his empire, and there are legitimate criticisms about his role in the lives of the less fortunate who paid for his guidance and relied on his connection to the unproven phenomenon of astrology.
These less-than-flattering aspects of Mercado’s life are addressed in Mucho Mucho Amor, but don’t expect a full exposé before you press play: there’s never a moment in the documentary that convinces you that Mercado was a money-grabbing trickster this whole time. The documentarians take the more reserved route and leave it to the viewer to decide whether or not it’s worth it to take the controversy to heart and completely invalidate the positivity Mercado generated in his lifetime. Is this a cheat? Perhaps. Regardless of my stance on astrology and the drama that sits behind the many outstretched bedazzled capes that belonged to Mercado, I believe any film with a message of love, individuality, and acceptance on a global scale is worth celebrating.