In Jackson, Miss., in the early 1960s, a young white woman (Emma Stone) sets out to compile a book of interviews with “colored” maids about their attitudes toward their jobs and their white employers, but at first only two women (Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer) will even talk to her. Kathryn Stockett, author of the best-selling novel, steered the film adaptation to her lifelong friend Tate Taylor. It was loyal of her, but ill-advised. Taylor’s only other movie as writer-director, Pretty Ugly People, was contrived and superficial, and he dumbs Stockett’s book down to the same level. He approximates Stockett’s story, but with all the texture and edges smoothed off. Still, the movie is slick, entertaining and well-acted by a large cast (including Alison Janney, Bryce Dallas Howard and Jessica Chastain).